City sends off cemetery proposal

Staff and wire report

A five-acre plot adjacent to Cannon Air Force Base is the top choice for a veterans cemetery if Clovis lands one of four sites in rural communities being proposed by the governor.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Beautification Committee and representatives from area veteran organizations were involved in rating the cemetery sites, with the top three being:

• Area adjacent to CAFB — 143 points

• Seventh and Marlene — 94 points

• Ned Houk Park area — 72 points

The site recommendations were part of a 200-page proposal sent off Thursday by the city to the state Department of Veteran Services.

Also included in the proposal is more than 140 citizen questionnaires and 22 resolutions of support from area government agencies, including several from West Texas.

“Supporting our Clovis area veterans is of great importance to the city of Clovis, which has been home to Cannon air Force Base and, as a result, a higher than average proportion of veterans, for more than 60 years,” the cover letter stated.

Sites will be chosen based on distance from current Veterans Affairs national cemeteries, veteran population in the area, community support and suitable and available land.

According to the Dec. 2 minutes of a parks, recreation and beautification board meeting, there are roughly 12,000 veterans in Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties eligible for burial in veterans cemetery.

In July, Gov. Susana Martinez outlined a plan for providing more burial options for veterans and their spouses than the national cemeteries in Santa Fe and at Fort Bayard in New Mexico and the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in Texas outside of El Paso.

Claire Burroughes, the city’s legislative and community development director, said she understands there are about 100 applicants, including the city of Portales.

Martinez said her administration will prepare a plan for initially creating three to four smaller state-owned cemeteries, each covering 3 to 5 acres. More cemeteries could be established later. Up to 10 possible cemetery sites will be identified after state officials meet with city and county officials.

The state will apply for a federal grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would cover costs of establishing the cemeteries. Each site could cost from $1.3 million to $1.6 million, according to the governor.

The goal is to submit an application to the federal government by July and have grant money by the fall of 2014.

Clovis appears to have the support of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.

“Our veterans and their families deserve to be laid to rest in an honorable setting,” said Sanchez during an Oct. 22 town hall meeting in Clovis. “We owe this to them. That is why we are here today … to rally support in an area which is an ideal location for one of these cemeteries.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.