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Montebello Veterans Memorial Gets Some TLC

Plans to renovate a veterans memorial at a Montebello park are underway, but it’s unlikely that many of the hoped for improvements will be completed in time for the city’s Memorial Day Observance on Monday.

The memorial at Montebello City Park was covered with graffiti, mismatched paint and shrubs, and in 2011 thieves stole the sites’ copper plaques commemorating the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

The Veteran Memorial located at Montebello City Park was vandalized in 2011. (Courtesy of Vivian Romero)

Residents helped clean up the area during a park beautification day last Saturday, but it’s unclear if replacement plaques, for which the city council has approved funding, will be installed in time for Monday’s ceremony.

Montebello Culture and Recreation Commissioners Vivian Romero and John Paul Garcia are among those spearheading the effort to give the veterans’ memorial a makeover. “Part of [beautification day] was to focus on the veteran’s memorial, especially with the holiday that’s coming up,” Garcia told EGP. “We wanted to clean up the area and if possible get the plaques replaced.”

Romero told EGP that replacing the stolen plaques had been on the city’s Culture and Recreation Commission’s agenda for months, but budget constraints had kept the city from approving funds needed to move ahead.

The granite memorial has been tagged, etched and spray-painted from the flagpole to the torch that sits on the memorial wall. Garcia said residents and veterans repeatedly approach him to complain about the memorial’s unkempt condition and the plaques missing for two years.

Romero said she too had noticed how disheveled the site was and how “its gotten progressively worse.”

Montebello Planning and Community Director Michael Huntley said it would cost the city about $6,000 to replace the plaques that were likely stolen for their copper content.

“This is people looking for ways to make money because the economy has been bad,” he said. “They stole those for a couple of dollars and that’s sad,” Huntley said, referring to the fact that items like these are usually sold for scrap metal with thieves only getting a few cents on the dollar of the actual value.

Huntley told EGP that a plan is “currently in motion” to try to get new plaques installed in time for the ceremony, but he would not say if the work will be completed in time.

In preparation for the park beatification day on May 18, Romero and Garcia approached several local businesses to ask for donations. This led them to the Home Depot in Commerce where they were told that a company grant aimed at veteran-related projects could help fund renovation of the veteran’s memorial.

The city has been approved for the grant but it’s not enough to cover the entire cost of the project that Home Depot estimates is between $10,000 and $15,000. Romero said they decided to push back their Memorial Day deadline to give Home Depot more time to try to secure the rest of the funding.

A walk through the area with Home Depot officials had city officials pointing out the many areas in need of repair, including the sidewalks, pavers, planters, benches and vegetation that have not been renovated since 1987, Garcia told EGP. “The truth is it’s not aesthetically pleasing, it’s a disgrace,” said Romero. “When you look at that part of the park it should be beautiful, it’s supposed to honor people in the military who served for our freedom.”

Garcia said they want the entire memorial to be renovated; “From where it starts, where there is a tree in the center of the park to the front on Whittier Boulevard.”

Among other things, city officials hope funds raised will cover the cost of re-painting the entire memorial wall where the wrong color paint was used to cover some of the tagging.

Volunteers got the ball rolling during last Saturday’s beautification day with some good old fashion cleaning and the planting of dozens of 20-foot trees and plants donated by a local wholesale tree distribution company.

Their efforts will have a “visual impact on our veterans who will [now] be proud to have the memorial as a tribute to them,” Romero said. “It will also send a message to those vandals that tag stuff up, that people do care about the way our community looks.”