NEFC proposes memorial to honor firefighters
— Following a discussion with the town board on Wednesday night, a proposed memorial honoring county firefighters could someday come to Main Street.
Members of the North East Fire Company came to a town board meeting in March and initially proposed putting a memorial honoring all county firefighters, past and present, in North East Community Park. But after about half an
hour of discussion Wednesday night, the fire company and the town board came to a preliminary compromise that putting the memorial in front of town hall could be a better option.
The process of finding a home for the memorial started about six weeks ago when Jeff Isaacs, chair of NEFC, and Jeff Nowland, of Nowland Construction who is helping out the fire company with design proposals, met with town officials to discuss potential locations in the park.
Town staff as well as North East Police Chief Daryl Hamilton all attended the preliminary meeting, Town Administrator Melissa Cook-McKenzie said, noting that it’s up to the town board to sign off on the concept of a memorial before the process can move forward.
When looking at potential locations in the park, the group tried to keep in mind security — such as potential for vandalism — access for maintenance
and visibility to the public. In addition, the memorial’s size also played a big role in finding a spot, Nowland said.
Though the exact design of the memorial is still in the preliminary stages, Nowland said it would need about 1,200-squarefeet of developable area for bricks, which would be sold to cover the approximately $200,000 cost of the memorial. Other elements of the memorial would include a life-sized bronze statue of a firefighter and a flag pole with various flags, Isaacs said.
The initial spot the group settled on and presented to the town
board was just north of the public pier, between the pier and the walkway by the water.
“We took your advice to take the master plan for the park and try and find an initial spot that it might live respectfully and responsibly within the master plan,” Nowland said.
Several members of the town board were cautiously skeptical of this location though, noting it is somewhat remote and might not be as visible to the public. Board members also expressed concerns about the size of the memorial.
Other possible locations were discussed but several members of the town board admitted they were reticent to speak frankly out of respect for the firefighters.
Mayor Robert McKnight noted
that the town board had toured the fire company earlier that afternoon and came away with even more respect for the fire company and what they do for the community than they already had.
“We’re caught. If you were some average group coming to us, we would speak our minds. With you guys we’re hesitant to do that because of who you are and what you do for us,” McKnight said. “I think if we were to speak our minds we would say, we don’t think this belongs down there and we think this is too big and too much going on.”
McKnight emphasized that he would like to find a compromise that would honor the firefighters in a highly visible location. Isaacs also said he was open to compro-
mise but that he would like the memorial to be built somewhere in North East.
“I respect your opinion, but I believe it belongs in the park,” Isaacs said, noting that he suggested the park because so many people go there and it would also provide easy access for the fire company to hold memorial services at the monument.
A compromise of sorts was reached about 35 minutes into the discussion when Cook-McKenzie suggested putting the memorial in front of town hall, next to the flag pole. It would be possible to eliminate one parking space to give even more space to the memorial, she added.
Both Isaacs and the town board were receptive to the idea since it would give the memorial plen-
ty of visibility. Cook- McKenzie also noted that more local businesses might support the memorial if it’s right on Main Street. McKnight agreed, though he said the memorial might need to be scaled back in size a bit.
“I think we want you on our main street. We want you right beside our building out here. We want you where people can see you,” McKnight said. “So we have to work on a design that will work out there.”
After the meeting, Isaacs, Nowland and the town board walked around outside to look at potential locations outside town hall. Isaacs said he would need to discuss the potential location change with his memorial committee and the fire company board before moving forward.
Elkton Police Chief Matthew Donnelly holds two cards of support that his agency received from citizens this week.
Members of the North East Fire Company have proposed building a memorial to firefighters somewhere in North East.