War memorial questioned by Milford selectmen

MILFORD – Plans for war memorials near the east entrance to Keyes Park came in for some criticism last week. A Vietnam Memorial Committee has been working on a Vietnam memorial as well as one relating to the terror attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath, called a Freedom Memorial.

At selectmen’s Dec. 17 meeting, committee Chairman Jerry Guthrie showed a design that includes a plaza with statues of police, EMTs and military responding to 9/11 and three columns that represent the sites where commandeered planes struck New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Brendan Philbrick and Jay Duffy told selectmen they liked the Vietnam memorial, but not the Freedom Memorial.

“I am not crazy about the 9/11 and death and destruction in a happy park,” said Philbrick, who is the organizer of the town Labor Day parade.

Board Chairman Kevin Federico interrupted him, saying details about the park should be worked out by an official board sub-committee, and there should be an overall consensus among townspeople, especially veterans’ groups.

“This is a conversation I don’t want to have at this meeting,” he said. “I don’t want the five of us (selectmen) deciding.”

But Philbrick continued, saying he has serious issues with the plan. Directly addressing Guthrie, he said, “this is definitely going to be changed.”

Duffy, who said he represents the VFW and a group of native sons, said he is happy the design had been toned down and no longer overshadows the adjacent Korean War memorial.

Paul Bartolomucci, a member of Guthrie’s committee, defended their work, saying they have been meeting for more than a year in town hall, had invited different constituent groups and published minutes. Members include some current and former town officials, he said, and the plans reflect survey results and and opinions from the VFW.

Meeting minutes published on the town website, however, show that the last time a meeting of the committee had a quorum, on June 4, three of the five members in attendance said they were leaning to a Vietnam-only memorial and survey responses were divided on that issue.

The park is planned for the cap of the Fletcher Paint Superfund site on Elm Street. Estimated costs are $125,000 for the Vietnam memorial and $95,000 for what is called a Freedom Memorial, and the purpose of the warrant article is to allow the town to take donations, with the hope that no taxpayer money will be needed.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.