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‘Sad ending’ to Heroes of Freedom Memorial

Scuplture for Heroes Freedom memorial by artist Cindy Seng. The memorial is located Old GrAve. Gurnee organized by Kirk Morris.

Scuplture for the Heroes of Freedom memorial by artist Cindy Seng. The memorial is located on Old Grand Ave. in Gurnee and organized by Kirk Morris. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 17, 2013 1:41AM

The long three-year saga of building a Heroes of Freedom Memorial to honor seven local military men who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan came to end at the Gurnee Village Board Monday night.

Behind closed doors, Village trustees thrashed out a settlement with Trustee Kirk Morris and trustees of the PFC Geoffrey Morris Memorial Foundation on a 4-2 vote. Morris’s Marine son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.

Morris excused himself from participating in the secret session and abstained in the voting, along with Trustee Greg Garner. Voting for the settlement were trustees Stephen Park, Cheryl Ross, Jeanne Balmes and Hank Schwarz.

The mutual release settlement provides that Village’s insurance will reimburse Morris and the Foundation for past out-of-pocket construction expenses and attorney fees that Morris said could run as high as $500,000 when all the bills are in.

“The settlement ends all connections between the Village and Trustee Morris’ Foundation and will allow the Village to improve the site (at 4575 Old Grand Ave., location of the former police station) under an intergovernmental agreement previously approved by the Gurnee Park District, Warren Township aand the Village, “ Mayor Kristina Kovarik said following the vote.

“It’s a sad ending to a unique Memorial to local heroes that many veterans and citizens had looked forward to having in Gurnee,” Morris said.

He said bearing up under the stress of having the proposed Heroes Memorial politicized has been difficult on him, his family and supporters, but he said he would continue private efforts to explore ways of honoring our local heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

From her standpoint, Kovarik blamed $800,000 in excessive Village costs that would be required for completing the Heroes of Freedom Memorial.

“The Village has a beautiful (Veterans) Memorial at the intersection of Washington Street and O’Plaine Road and (the Village) will now improve the old police station site (on Grand Avenue) with the help of other governmental partners so it can be enjoyed by all residents of Gurnee.”

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