“You can see the concrete wall cracking, and the deterioration,” said Len Barry, chairing a Taber Legion delegation to town council on July 15.
“We’re not sure what the actual monument itself is made out of — it looks like just concrete. But we don’t know if it’s been reinforced.”
Unveiled on July 11, 1928, the monument features a life-size sculpture of a Canadian soldier crafted from Italian marble.
“The statue on top is Thomas Love, he was a veteran from Taber,” said Barry.
“There were a bunch of those statues made just after the Second World War. There’s a few left standing in home towns, the rest have gone back to the Canadian War Museum. You can see that these things are cracking. If it cracks bad enough that he tumbles, we’ve got an estimate from Southern Monuments of the replacement value of $365,000.”
Captured German weapons surrounding the base of the cenotaph structure also are in need of repair and restoration.
“The three German guns that were captured, two water-cooled machine guns and a cannon, and you can tell they’re in really bad shape,” said Barry.
Restoration work specific to the cenotaph would be focused on replacing the base of the monument with a granite pillar, engraved with the names and information currently featured on the brass plaques embedded in the current structure.
“The granite slab itself, that Tommy (Thomas Love statue) will be sitting back up on, is $20,000,” said Barry.
“We want to take the brass plaques that are on the old one now, they’re going to be cleaned up and hopefully taken back to the branch. On the new granite slab, the names will be engraved.”
Demolition work for the existing monument once the Love sculpture is removed is estimated to cost $2,000. Cement sidewalks surrounding the monument are also in need of replacement.
“The sidewalks around it, they’re all cracked. If we’re going to spend the money on the monument, it would be nice to actually have the concrete fixed up,” said Barry.
Barry reported the Taber Legion has raised approximately $10,000, but will need to raise the rest of the funding prior to the commencement of any restoration work.
Ed Martin, speaking as part of the Taber Legion delegation, indicated the organization would be looking to the town to pay for the new granite base for the Love sculpture.
Martin noted the monument had become a town responsibility several years ago.
“The Royal Canadian Legion turned this over to the town, about eight years ago. Since then it’s deteriorated enough that we feel that we need to do something.”
Coun. Rick Popadynetz questioned the expensive choice of material that had been selected for the restored monument.
“I think this is a worthwhile project. Unfortunately, we’re doing a huge upgrade here from concrete to granite. It’s a big step up.”
Martin pointed the out the decision to select granite goes beyond the purely aesthetic.
“The reason we chose granite is, every three years, we have to take the plaques down, and they have to be sent away to be redone, and that costs between $3,000 and $5,000. So if you figure this out, in 10 years it will pay for itself. Granite is very durable, it doesn’t erode. That’s why we’ve decided to go with granite, because it’s zero cost for maintenance.”
Popadynetz went on to suggest funding at the federal or provincial level might be available for such a project.
“We tried to go through command, and there is funding available, but in order to do that, we have to build a $50,000 monument before we can get any money,” said Martin.
“As for provincial grants, as of late, they’ve cut all of those.”
Martin reported the Taber Legion is hoping to move forward with the project by early 2014, should needed funding be fully secured.
“We’re actually planning to start in the spring, and then have it finished in September, and then hold a parade and a dedication. So we’re looking at a year.”
With questions raised about the ownership of the structure, council voted unanimously to accept the delegation’s request as information, while directing administration to investigate the town’s responsibility with regard to the cenotaph.
Coun. Louie Tams affirmed the extent of the town’s responsibility would need to be determined before any financial decisions can be made.
“It kind of stunned me this is our property, and we’re maintaining it, and I think obviously that question has to get asked — if that is the case, then the sidewalks and the cement slab becomes ours, and we’ll have to fit it into our own budget process.”