After spending more than $100,000 and postponing two groundbreakings for a veterans memorial in Rocky Hill, the state has scrapped those plans and moved the project to Hartford.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and others tossed shovels full of dirt Monday at the official groundbreaking for the new memorial that will be built at a small park outside the state armory and directly across the street from the state Capitol complex.
The project dates back at least to 2007, and professionals were paid to design a memorial across from the State Veterans’ Home in Rocky Hill. But those plans fell through, and the site will now be at Minuteman Park outside the armory.
When asked why the memorial had been delayed for years, Malloy said he did not have a good explanation.
“I don’t know,’’ Malloy told reporters. “I’m relatively new at this job. I don’t understand why people couldn’t get something like this done. It’s kind of crazy, don’t you think? You have a whole bunch of veterans who haven’t lived to see the memorial that will be dedicated to their service. I can assure you that once I got involved, we moved it pretty quickly. … This is the same one that was going to be at Rocky Hill. But I think this is just a better location – outside the armory, in the capital city, in a very public place. I’m very happy with this.’’
In July 2012, state officials said they would break ground in the fall on the long-delayed statewide memorial to honor all military veterans from Connecticut, although they still had no architect and no final design. The groundbreaking occurred Monday with a new design, and officials said the new site is key because numerous soldiers have been deployed from the armory to Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas assignments.
The Rocky Hill version, which included an amphitheatre, could have cost $1.5 million, officials said. The new design is by BL Companies of Meriden, which was once headed by former state Rep. Bob Landino, a formerly prominent Democrat at the Capitol.
Officials raised about $250,000 during the tenure of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and now the plan is moving forward under Malloy. Veterans commissioner Linda Schwartz, who has been in her position for more than 10 years under governors from both parties, has been the guiding spirit behind the project.
“The idea that this has languished as long as it did and was perhaps kicked around [in] some other possible locations is too bad, but actually it presents this unique opportunity to get it right and to get it in the right place. And that’s what this area is,” Malloy told veterans last year at the site. ”I can’t think of a better location than here in Minuteman Park.”
Beginning in 1775, Malloy said, 1.3 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have served the country from Connecticut.
The state has set aside $500,000 in bond funds, and private donations have now reached $300,000, Schwartz said. The overall project will cost $700,000, and the state currently has $600,000 set aside for the project, she said.