A plan to build a veterans cemetery in El Paso County has hit a snag. There's not enough water on the Kane property near Fountain to sustain a cemetery, Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro said at a news conference Thursday afternoon outside Fountain's city hall.
Muro said the VA will start looking for another site in case water can't be routed to the property southeast of the town. The search will be for another site in El Paso County, he said.
But Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells says the city has adequate water supplies to accommodate the cemetery, and Fountain conservation and supply manager Curtis Mitchell says the cemetery land lies in the path of Fountain's planned development. That makes the area including the planned site a logical place to extend service, he said.
The cemetery needs 100 acre feet of water per year, the equivalent of the amount used by 250 homes, Mitchell said.
"We have enough supply to meet this need today," he added.
But the VA isn't allowed to pay to extend the pipeline the 2.5 miles necessary to serve the site, so that expense will have to be picked up by someone else.
Asked if the county would help with that cost, County Commissioner Dennis Hisey said, "We're about to have that discussion, though (County administrator) Jeff Greene and the commissioners don't know it yet."
Hisey said he hopes the county can partner with Fountain to build the pipeline and noted that no right-of-way would have to be acquired, because it's already owned by the county.
"The VA has a sense of urgency, so we do too," Hisey said.
The VA plans to have the cemetery ready for use in 2014.
Muro said once a site is settled upon for sure, a landscape and design contract will be bid. "We haven't started the bid process for the design," he said. "Once we own the property, we go out for bids." He said the cemetery would include a memorial wall, grave sites, a vault for ashes, and amphitheater and support buildings.
The cemetery would be the 132nd in the VA system nationwide, which employs 1,700 people, 70 percent of them veterans.
Hisey said the land was deeded to the county three years ago for the cemetery project, and the county is ready to deed it to the VA once the pipeline problem is solved.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, was on hand for the news conference and said he's eager for the VA to move ahead on the projects, which has been in the works for years.