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Trustee, Gurnee near settlement on Heroes of Freedom Memorial

The Heroes Freedom Memorial located Old GrAve. Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

The Heroes of Freedom Memorial located on Old Grand Ave. in Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 29, 2013 2:13AM

GURNEE — Settlement negotiations are ongoing between the village and Trustee Kirk Morris regarding building a memorial honoring seven local veterans who were killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The matter was before Lake County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Mullen on Thursday.

“This case has not been settled yet, but there’s progress that I’m encouraged by,” Mullen said of the lawsuit Morris filed against the village in an effort to compel Gurnee officials to fund the Heroes of Freedom Memorial on the vacant site of the former police station, closed in 2003, at 4587 Old Grand Ave.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik and her three attorneys met with Morris and his attorney Robert O’Donnell, negotiating for about four hours Thursday. Neither side disclosed the proposed settlement terms to The News-Sun.

“Because of the ongoing negotiations, I don’t want to discuss the terms, but I’m encouraged that the village wants to settle. It seems they want to settle in good faith this time,” Morris said.

Kovarik said she could not comment on pending litigation.

Another round of settlement negotiations are scheduled on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

Morris founded the Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Memorial Foundation, named after his son who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004, to construct the memorial on village property and started collecting money in 2005 to build it. Village officials then had agreed to help fund the project, but officials have since backed out of the plan. That’s when Morris filed suit seeking the promised funding.

The proposed memorial would include a sculpture by Libertyville artist Cindy Seng.

Besides Geoffrey Morris, there would also be plaques honoring service members Army Spc. Wesley Wells, 21, of Libertyville whose mother lives in Gurnee and who died in 2004 in Afghanistan; Marine Cpl. Sean Maher, 19, killed in 2005 in Iraq; Marine Sgt. Edward Davis III, 31, killed in 2006 Iraq; Army Capt. Shane Mahaffee, 36, died in 2006 in Germany of injuries suffered during combat patrol operations in Al Hillah, Iraq; Army Sgt. Jason Denfrund, 24, killed in Baghdad; Army Spc. Joseph Dimock II, 21, killed in Afghanistan.

Morris and the village had reached an approved settlement in July in which the village agreed to fund and complete the project. However, the Village Board rejected the settlement, which is why the lawsuit is still pending.

The agreement reached in July mandated the memorial to be completed by the village on or before Aug. 1, 2013 using village funds. Gurnee was to work with the memorial foundation for a dedication ceremony.

The memorial was to include a sidewalk, benches, landscaping, electrical and lighting. The terms were laid out in a judicial order in July.

However, the Village Board rejected the order at a meeting in August. Attorneys for Gurnee called it a “tentative settlement”

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