01/16/09 — Public speaks its mind on land

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Public speaks its mind on land

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 16, 2009 1:46 PM

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James Stokes, left, Warren Rook, center, and Tom Reilly, right, of Wayne County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 45, listen Thursday evening as Charles Norwood explains the possibility of a veterans memorial in Goldsboro during a public hearing at the Wayne County Public Library.

With more than 75 people on hand Thursday night to discuss the future of the old Community Building site there was no shortage of suggestions, but the one thing almost all of the speakers had in common was a desire to see the space on the corner of William and Walnut streets become some sort of memorial.

Speaking at a public hearing held by the building's board of trustees at the Wayne County Public Library, some said they wanted a memorial put there along with a building of some sort -- whether it be an office building or another type of community facility -- and others said they didn't want to see the space taken up by a building, but had a vision of an open memorial.

Charles Norwood was the first to stand and speak about his wishes for the land.

His vision was one of a open memorial like the one located on Church Street in Rocky Mount.

"I don't think we should miss an opportunity to honor those people," he said of the Wayne County sons who lost their lives in the country's wars.

He would like to see a memorial built that is comparable to the size of the old Community Building, which was originally built in honor of those who lost their lives in World War I.

"Anything less, in my opinion, would be inappropriate," he said.

County Manager Lee Smith stood up after Norwood and told the crowd that he had another option, one he had spoken to several county commissioners about -- using a portion of the courthouse lawn for a memorial.

Downtown Master Plan Designer Allison Platt agreed with Smith, saying that she envisioned the two corners on William and Walnut streets -- one on the courthouse lawn and the other on the old Community Building land -- as serving several purposes.

She saw the two spaces as both a memorial but also as an "architectural gateway" to the city.

The corner memorials she depicted would have short brick walls surrounding them to help "protect" them, a fountain in the middle and flags in a semi-circle around each fountain. The memorials also could include a listing of names and what the old building meant to the community, she said.

"The fountain would drown out some of the traffic noise and would make it a more tranquil place," she said.

And if the board decided to put a building on the old Community Building land, she believes it should be one of grandeur.

"If it's going to sit across from one of the nicest buildings in the county, it needs to be of very high quality," she said.

Greg Keesee, commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 45, said that he could see a building on the land, but that it should be one that could be used to help more veterans.

He said that the DAV has more than 1,139 members, and all of the chapter's service takes place in a small house on Patrick Street.

"Why not have a building for veterans as it was before?" he asked.

He said the chapter has been trying to raise money for a new building, but that the money just isn't flowing in.

"If you don't have adequate space for them, where are they going to go? They all come to our building," he said.

Bill Strickland, on the other hand, said that while he would like to see a corner of the space preserved for a memorial, he would prefer to see a privately owned building on the lot.

Glenn Barwick disagreed, though. He said that the land should be used for a building that "really serves the community in the way that the old one did."

And, he added, a monument alone wouldn't suffice and wouldn't mean as much to residents as the old Community Building did.

"If our forefathers had put a monument there we wouldn't be talking about the Community Building today," he said.

Gordon Combs didn't mention a building on the land, but said he wanted to see a memorial placed on it, one that would be "a fitting memorial ... on this hallowed ground."

A memorial is a must, Bill Keel said, but he wasn't sure if it should be on the "hallowed ground" Combs talked about.

He believes that a memorial is more for the living -- a place that becomes special not because of where it is located but because of the meaning behind it, that memorials are a "sacred or hallowed place" to remember and reflect, and, for a few, a place that gives them closure.

He said he went to Warsaw recently to see the traveling Vietnam War wall, a listing of names of those who lost their life in the war.

"It became a sacred place for me," he said. "Wherever we chose to establish that memorial, if we do it right, in reverence and in recognition it deserves, it too will become a hallowed place."

County Commissioner Steve Keen stepped to the podium and talked, too, about the men and women who have served their country.

"We must remember we are all indebted to those who served our country," he said.

He wasn't sure what exactly should be done with the property, he said, but he was sure of one thing -- the land shouldn't be sold to a private company but should "always remain in the hands of the citizens of Wayne County."

"The value (of the land) isn't found in (the citizens') wallets but in their hearts," he said.