Redwood County has been wanting to construct a new veterans cemetery for years, but every year the federal funding falls through. At Tuesday’s Redwood County Board meeting, several members from the Department of Veterans Affairs explained what is causing the hold up.
Dave Swantek, Senior Administrator of Memorial Affairs, said the state got authority to construct three new veterans cemeteries years ago. One opened in Preston in 2014, and one opened in Duluth last year. The third one was and is scheduled for Redwood Falls.
In recent years, the county has decided on a location, gotten a purchase agreement from the current landowner, and done the necessary soil sampling and archaeological studies.
However, Swantek said it’s purely a matter of receiving limited federal funding now, funding divided up between multiple states. One reason the proposed Redwood Falls veterans cemetery was deferred in recent years was that Oklahoma requested funds to create its first veterans cemetery, while Minnesota had three new projects on the list.
Swantek said it hasn’t helped Redwood’s case that Preston went $1 million over budget, and Duluth’s ended up being more expensive than expected.
Swantek also said there’s a priority system in place, with expanding existing veterans cemeteries being a higher priority than creating new ones.
Bradley Lindsay, Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Services, told the Redwood County Board that Redwood was deferred in part because the cemetery in Little Falls requested the funds to add 1,800 more plots to its site, the second expansion of the Little Falls veterans cemetery in 26 years.
Lindsey said, “That’s the unknown and frustrating part for building a new cemetery. When there are 11 expansion projects, it pushes a new cemetery project down on the list.”
However, Lindsay said, “As far as we are concerned, (the Redwood Falls veterans cemetery) is going to happen. It’s just waiting for the federal funding.”