Hold up on Fallen Firefighters' Memorial Groundbreaking - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Hold up on Fallen Firefighters' Memorial Groundbreaking

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Picture by Katherina Yancy, KATV Picture by Katherina Yancy, KATV

(KATV) The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters memorial has been in the works for more than 15 years. It, along with a fire safety amphitheater are planned to go on the State Capitol lawn.

Organizers say they're disappointed they have not been given a date to break ground even though they raised the last of the 1.3 million a year ago. ($150,000 of that is donated labor and services for construction)

The memorial is to honor the 99 firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice. There will be room to add more names. Widows have now started a writing campaign urging for construction to start. They tell Channel Seven they have not received a response.

The statue has been sitting outside the Arch Street Fire Department for more than 3 years, waiting for the 'ok' to move to its permanent home. There are four images, phases of fire fighting. In the center ‘leather lungs' goes back to the days without a mask. A female firefighter paramedic holds a child and administers CPR. There's a forest fire ranger and a modern fire fighter with full equipment.

Chair of the memorial, Johnny Reep says, "Those names of the firefighters who have been killed over the years, their families will realize what their families did in the line of duty will be for nothing unless they see those names engraved in granite on the memorial wall."

Reep was disappointed to receive this letter from the Secretary of State's office, in part:

"Secretary of State Mark Martin takes serious his charge to maintain the beauty and splendor which is the Capitol. Of course the final decision for any memorial belongs to the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission."

"Just the fact they say we have the election process, we have Christmas festivities, we have the legislative session coming. I'm aware of the culture of the Capitol, but those are not good reasons to hold up this memorial project," Reep adds.

He says if the commission is worried about damaging the capitol lawn for a groundbreaking, he has a non-traditional idea. "We can lay tarp and spread fresh dirt on it. We will turn the dirt on top of the tarp, not break the ground and when the session is over with start construction."

A deputy with the Secretary of State's office tells Channel Seven after new grounds committee members are appointed they can set a meeting by the first of the year.

Reep concludes, "Construction cost are going up and everyday inflation eats away at our fundraising pot so we don't want to be behind and have to raise additional funds again. We have to get a move on."