JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Veterans Commission expects to name a contractor for the new state veterans cemetery at Bloomfield in early February with construction to begin later that month.
Ron Taylor, the commission's superintendent of services and cemeteries, said on Friday that proposals for the Bloomfield project, and another at Jacksonville in northeast Missouri, are already being solicited. The cemeteries are expected to cost between $5.5 million and $6 million apiece.
The bidding period will close at the end of January and the contracts awarded within days, Taylor said. All things being equal, Taylor said the contracts will go to the lowest bidders.
Once construction begins, it should take about 14 months to complete.
"If we get a contractor and he can hit the ground in February and we don't get bad weather, we should hit spring 2003 for opening," Taylor said. "If we get lucky, maybe we could beat that, but you can't count on it with Missouri weather."
Taylor also said directors for the two new cemeteries will be named this week. Learning from the experience of building the state's first two veterans cemeteries at Springfield and Higginsville, Taylor said the commission felt it important to have directors on board at the start of construction rather than near the end, as was the case with the earlier facilities, which opened in late 1999.
The Bloomfield and Jacksonville cemeteries, once also slated for completion in 1999, have faced numerous delays because of a change in federal law that held up funding, the entirety of which is coming from the U.S. Veterans Administration.
The Bloomfield cemetery will be just south of the center of town and adjacent to the Stars and Stripes Museum and Library on a 65-acre site off of Highway 25.
Bloomfield Mayor Bill Aslin said the cemetery will prove beneficial for the city's economy, increasing the number of visitors to the area.
"We are very excited about it and think it is a very natural marriage with the Stars and Stripes museum," Aslin said. "We certainly think it will be very positive for the community."
Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the U.S. military, was first published at Bloomfield during the Civil War by Union troops who captured the town. Museum officials have long anticipated the opening of the cemetery, which they expect to boost the profile of the museum.
Honorably discharged veterans who lived in Missouri at any point in their lives are eligible for burial in state cemeteries.
Sites for the four cemeteries were chosen so 90 percent of Missouri's resident veterans would live within 75 miles of one. Barring a major war with heavy casualties, the state system should accommodate veteran burials for the next 80 to 100 years.