Commissioners approve COVID-19 memorial

Rendering provided
The Dubois County Commissioners approved a COVID-19 memorial on Monday that will be located on the county courthouse’s southeast lawn.


JASPER — A memorial recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the community will be placed on the Dubois County Courthouse lawn in Jasper.

The Dubois County Commissioners approved on Monday the design and location, which is the the courthouse’s southeast lawn.

The commissioners acknowledged the various comments they’d received from people who did not agree with the placement. They also recognized the impact the virus has had on the community.

“It’s appropriate to put it in a place where the exposure is such that many people will continually be reminded of what has happened,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “I think that is important.”

The design is circular. It includes a black granite column with gray granite circular benches around it, sitting on a stamped concrete circular pad.

“There will be inscriptions on it with two distinct messages,” said Chris Waltz, manager of the project. “One, to pay tribute to those front line workers who bravely risked contracting an often fatal virus to keep our communities healthy, safe, nourished and educated during the pandemic. The second message is to honor those residents of Dubois County who lost their lives to complications of the virus, and to their families that continue to grieve and, in many cases, were not able to be with them when they passed.”

There will also be images to convey those two messages. Once those decisions are made, the wording and images will be brought to the commissioners for their approval, Waltz said.

The memorial will be about 5 feet tall at its highest point and have a diameter of about 10 feet. The estimated cost for the proposed design, which includes the stone, lettering and installation is about $11,300. No tax dollars will be used for the memorial’s construction. The committee is planning to get grants and donations to cover that cost, Waltz said. The county will take care of the maintenance once the monument is installed.

It will take six to eight months for Schum Monuments to get the granite stone from overseas suppliers, Waltz said. The committee wanted to get the commissioners’ approval before starting that process, he explained.

Before voting on Monday, the commissioners discussed the plan.

Commissioner Chad Blessinger said he had several people approach him to state their displeasure in having the memorial on the courthouse grounds.

“It would be easier for me to support moving forward if I would have had one person in the community come up and say that it’s a good idea; but I haven’t had that,’ he said. “But I haven’t had a ton of people against it.”

The comments he did get were people questioning the reason for having such. memorial.

“Someone said that it is disrepectful to veterans,” Blessinger said, because the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the memorial book listing the Dubois County soldiers who died in a war are around the courthouse. That person suggested the COVID memorial be placed elsewhere, he said.

“Other people have said, ‘Suicide is a huge problem in this community,’ ” Blessinger shared. “ ‘You set the precedent of setting up a memorial to this, someone will be here in a month wanting something for suicide or alcohol. People die from those diseases.’ ” People also mentioned other diseases, like heart disease, Blessinger said.

Brames and Commissioner Nick Hostetter said they support having the memorial.

“I can’t think of any other thing that touched so many lives,” Hostetter said, “whether you lost someone or not, whether you were an essential worker or not. It just changed so much.”

Hostetter said he does empathize with those who have lost their lives to other diseases. But this affected every person, he said.

“Our school kids that went through this, will look back on this in 50 years and will still think about this as a life-changing moment. This changed everything,” Hostetter said. “Heart disease does not change everything; it’s not communicable. And I feel for those people, too. But this is different. This affected every single one of us, in some different way.”

Brames said the COVID pandemic is “an unprecedented situation, because it affected all of us right here in Dubois County.

“If we were just doing it to remember those who lost their lives, then I think those who say that heart disease and cancer still take more lives, and some of these other diseases, those are important to consider,” he said. “The driving reason for doing it is the historical aspect of it. We have the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, some call it the Civil War monument, on the side of the Square to remind us that our freedom is fragile, we need to protect it, and what we need to go through to do that. I think this monument will continue to remind us of what can happen, that this is probably not the last time that something like this might happen, and we’re better prepared in the future.”

All three commissioners approved the memorial and its placement.

“No one really wants to rehash it. But it happened,” Hostetter said. “And it changed so many lives.”

The commissioners also:

• Approved using portions of Market Street, County Road 800 East Schnellville Road, Schnell Road, County Road 400 South, Pine Ridge Road and Elm Street from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, for the Schnellville Derby 4-mile run/walk, which is part of the Schnellville Hometown Fest.

• Were reminded that Ell Creek Road from Voelkel Road to north Phoenix Drive will be closed from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday and from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday for road grader training.

• Heard a presentation about the work Crisis Connection does in the community.

• Acknowledged and congratulated Dylan Hopf, who was awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the Association of Indiana Counties and Nationwide Retirement Solutions. Dylan, son of Chris and Scott Hopf, is a Jasper High School graduate and plans to study radiology at University of Southern Indiana.

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