Soon after the incident made national news a decade ago Walker County received $45,000 from the state of Georgia to build a memorial.
Since then the money has been languishing as a line item in the county coffers — unable to be put to its intended use because of a lack of consensus among the community and family members of the victims.
However, after a six-hour meeting earlier this month between Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, monument companies and victims’ family members, it seems that plans will finally be set in motion.
Heiskell heard bids from three monument manufacturing companies, including Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park Cemetery, where the recovered bodies were laid to rest and also where a small monument to the unidentified victims of the crematory was subsequently erected through the park’s own courtesy.
Because of the restrictive nature of the oversight process for other companies working inside the memorial park, Heiskell and community members attending the meeting reached a consensus that working with the park’s own monu-ment creation department would be the most prudent move.
“Tennessee-Georgia has to be involved in it anyway,” she said.
Heiskell said the question of whether to carve the names of the victims into the memorial, the idea originally put forth by some family members, comprised the majority of the debate in the bid meeting.
According to Heiskell, Vanessa McKeehan, who performs monument work for the Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park Cemetery, was concerned by the desire to have each identified victim’s name on the monument.
To have all the names included, “we would have to look at all the obituaries for all the names and get permission from all of their families,” Heiskell said. “And if one person said no, then we wouldn’t do it at all.”
Also problematic was the fact that a few family members wanted to include names of their loved ones whose bodies were never found or identified at the crematory.
“That would be like opening a new court case,” said Heiskell, adding that the legal logistics of including names not on the official record would be next to impossible for the county.
To solve the question of names, the group settled on a compromise: the monument marker itself will contain no names, but those family members wishing to commemorate their loves ones can make their request known to the memorial park and an engraved footstone will be added to the memorial area at no charge to the family.
Heiskell said the design approved at the meeting will contain two small monuments as well as the foot-stones, benches, shrubbery and landscaping.
The county plans to spend the entire $45,000 on the project, with a good portion going to landscaping and a small amount held in reserve in case family or community members wish to order or add an engraved footstone after the fact.
To request that an engraved footstone be installed at the memorial in honor of your loved one, contact Vanessa McKeehan at 706-866-5533.
Visit www.catwalkchatt.com for more news.