Fayette County

Firefighters raising funds for memorial in Phoenix Park

A memorial honoring the seven Lexington firefighters who have died in the line of duty is being proposed for Phoenix Park.

The memorial, dubbed a Monument to the Fallen, would be near the police memorial on the Main Street side of the park. The two memorials would be tied together by landscaping.

Lexington has had a police memorial since 1998, said Jeff Garris, co-chairman of the Lexington Fraternal Order of Firefighters' Monument to the Fallen committee. "We need to honor (firefighters) who have gone before us, who have given the ultimate sacrifice. It's the right thing to do."

To reach that goal, the FOF has launched a campaign to raise the $250,000 necessary to build and maintain the memorial.

The hope is that the memorial can be dedicated in October 2009, Garris said.

The proposed memorial would be a 14-foot-tall polished granite pillar. A rope molding would loop across the top. Brick pavers in the shape of a Maltese cross would surround the base of the pillar. It would have a perpetual flame at the top.

A Maltese cross is symbolic of fire departments, and rope is an important tool for firefighters, Garris said.

Each side of the pillar would be dedicated to one of the four entities of the Lexington fire department — the department itself, the FOF, the local International Association of Fire Fighters Local 526, and the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters.

The names of the fallen would be inscribed on the fire department's side, Garris said.

Plans for the firefighters memorial might change depending on what happens with a proposed tax increment financing project related to CentrePointe, the controversial $250 million hotel, condo and retail complex on West Main Street.

Tax increment financing allows state and local governments to fund public improvement projects and pay them back with the increased tax revenues that the development generates.

The city is creating a development plan for the Phoenix Park/Courthouse Development Area that will determine public-improvement projects for the area. Proposed projects related to Phoenix Park include an underground parking garage and a rebuilt park.

At this point, it's unclear whether the parking garage or the other park improvements would affect the police memorial or the plans for the fire memorial. Both memorials might have to be moved to a different site at Phoenix Park.

"The entire park would be improved, but we fully intend for the police and fire memorials to be part of the park," Susan Straub, Mayor Jim Newberry's spokeswoman, said in a statement. We would work with representatives of the memorials."

In addition to the uncertainty of improvements to Phoenix Park, it's unclear whether the Fraternal Order of Police supports placing the fire monument by the police memorial.

The Bluegrass Lodge No. 4 of the Fraternal Order of Police has yet to take an official position about the proposed fire memorial. The membership will discuss the issue at its November meeting, said Mike Sweeney, president of the lodge.

"My own personal opinion would be that it would be better suited for them to have their own location," Sweeney said.

Having both memorials in the same area takes away from the individuality of each profession, he said.

The FOF chose Phoenix Park because the law enforcement monument is there and because both groups are part of the city's public safety, Garris said.

The fire memorial was designed to be similar to the police memorial in size and shape, Garris said. "We didn't want to take anything away from their memorial. We wanted to enhance it. They're just as important in this community as we are as far as public safety goes."

The Phoenix Park site already has been approved by the city's arts review board and the parks department, Garris said.

To raise money for the memorial, 462 brick pavers that would ring the base are being sold. Each brick costs $250. About 100 have been sold so far, Garris said.

The FOF also is seeking corporate and private donations, he said.

Last week, the Urban County Council tentatively approved giving $10,000 toward the project.