Palm Beach County drops plan to build 9-11 memorial

Cost concerns, losing out on Trade Center beam

Cost concerns and the inability to get a piece of the fallen World Trade Center prompted Palm Beach County Tuesday to drop plans for a 9-11 memorial.

By the time Palm Beach County tried to get some of the World Trade Center steel being used to create memorials across the country, no more was available.

Also, the potential $200,000 cost comes as the county faces a $50 million budget shortfall.

The County Commission Tuesday decided not to pursue a proposed "9-11 Memorial Plaza" planned at Lake Lytal Park near West Palm Beach.

Instead, county commissioners agreed to continue holding yearly 9-11 "observances" at different locations throughout the area to commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I think we all feel the pain of all the people that were lost," said County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, who opposed proceeding with building the memorial. "With the many, many expenses that we have … leave it for another day."

County Commission Chairwoman Karen Marcus initially proposed that the county follow the lead of other local communities and try to get one of the beams left from the World Trade Center site to use as the centerpiece of a local memorial.

Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens and Tequesta are among the local communities that acquired World Trade Center steel for permanent local displays. But no more was available when the county asked.

"It does take away from it, not being able to get some of what was left in New York," said Marcus, who Tuesday supported not proceeding with the county memorial.

The county plan would have used $20,000 set aside for county art projects to fund the memorial's design.

Without a piece of the World Trade Center to feature, the concept called for creating "a peaceful place of reflection, remembrance and commemoration of the victims and first responders at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and in a field near Shanksville, Pa."

The idea was for artists to compete for the chance to create the memorial, with the county choosing the winning bid and then providing the $20,000 for design.

That design then would be the basis of a campaign aimed to raise about $200,000 for the memorial.

But how a county government that has been plagued by corruption scandal in recent years should go about conducting a fundraising campaign for the memorial was another hurdle for the project.

Since 2006, four county commissioners have resigned and pled guilty to criminal charges related to misuse of office.

After the string of scandals began, county commissioners were advised to stay away from leading fundraising efforts.

The idea is to avoid creating a perception of favoritism for the local businesses, landowners, county contractors or others who could donate and also potentially benefit from future county approvals.

Commissioners Tuesday avoided those concerns by scuttling the proposed memorial.

The source of the $20,000 in start-up money created another hurdle for the memorial proposal.

County staffers proposed using $20,000 set aside for a proposed Black Heritage Trail, that would highlight historically significant sites throughout the county. With that project delayed, county officials proposed using that $20,000 to get the 9-11 memorial started.

Fundraising money for the 9-11 memorial then could reimburse the Black Heritage Trail project, according to the proposal.

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, the only black member of the commission, and Commissioner Shelley Vana objected.

"Basically you are killing this project," Taylor said about taking the trail money.

Taylor on Tuesday agreed to help jumpstart the Black Heritage Trail project.


Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Print this article Back to Top

Comments