Veterans cheer over county transfer of Vet Hall to Danville | May 23, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - May 23, 2008

Veterans cheer over county transfer of Vet Hall to Danville

Council excited about plans for town's largest project in its history

by Meghan Neal

Just in time for Memorial Day the Danville Town Council has cleared the final hurdle to rebuild the Veteran's Memorial Building in downtown Danville.

The council unanimously approved at its meeting Tuesday a Letter of Intent from the county to transfer ownership of the building to the town; with that action, Danville has committed $5 million toward the project.

"It's a huge step," said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo. "This is something that the veterans' community and a lot of people have been working for, for a long time."

"It's like starting to see the light at the other end of the tunnel," said Alamo resident Tony Carnemolla, president of the Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee of San Ramon Valley, the group that started the push for a new building.

Earlier this year the committee presented the town with a business plan for a renovated Vet Hall. It included two event halls to allow for multiple uses of the high-demand building, as well as an exclusive veterans' wing.

But before the town was able to move forward with the plan it had to secure ownership from the county. Recognizing the significance of Tuesday's vote, dozens of veterans and other supporters filled the Town Meeting Hall to celebrate the milestone.

"This is really the center of our heart - the heart of America," said Mike Conklin, founder of Sentinels of Freedom. A father of three children serving in the military, he praised the building as a way to engage future veterans.

The total cost of the reconstruction is estimated at $7 million to $8 million; the committee has pledged to raise $3 million through community fundraising efforts.

The $5 million the town has committed makes the new Vet Hall the largest project in the history of Danville, Councilman Newell Arnerich proudly pointed out.

One of the terms of the letter requires the town to pay $200,000 to the county to help it maintain the other veterans' buildings it owns. This follows a precedent set when the county made property transfer deals with Lafayette and Walnut Creek.

"It's a recognition that the county's participating in this and helping make it happen, for which we're very grateful," said Councilwoman Karen Stepper before the meeting.

The official transfer of ownership will occur within the next two months and the town will begin construction within three years of the transfer.

The next step is to form a stakeholder committee made up of veterans, seniors and other parties appointed by the council, which will select an architect to start developing plans.

"We're really proud to be part of a town that is proud to wear yellow ribbons and tie them around trees," Stepper said. "Going into Memorial Day, hopefully it'll be on the top of people's minds how important this is to the veterans in our community."