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Law makes it tougher for state agency to repair monuments that lack patrons

Unveiled in 1998, the Ernest W. McFarland Memorial uses photographs etched in metal to guide visitors through iconic moments in a life that included service as U.S. Senate majority leader, Arizona governor and state Supreme Court chief justice.

The semi-circle wall, standing among more than 30 monuments and memorials outside the Arizona State Capitol, also bears autobiographical passages about McFarland’s early life, a list of his accomplishments and a sculpture of his face.

But the memorial’s most notable feature these days: It’s a mess.

Some of the pictures are missing, leaving bare concrete casings, and others are loose and corroded. Parts of the wall’s face are crumbling; others have water stains. A fountain on a small plaza in front of the wall no longer works.

The Arizona Department of Administration, which oversees Wesley Bolin Plaza and is responsible for everyday care of memorials and monuments, says repairs will cost $250,000.

“The real thorn in our side is the McFarland memorial,” said Alan Ecker, a department spokesman. “If we could get that one taken care of, we would be in a much better position.”

But it isn’t clear where that money will come from.

While Arizona law specifies that money to repair monuments and memorials must come from the organizations that established them, at the time the McFarland memorial went in there was no provision to force payment.

Ecker said McFarland’s family, which established the memorial through a foundation, hasn’t been responsive to his department’s inquiries about funding the repairs. Cronkite News Service was unable to locate family members; an e-mail sent to one apparent relative received no reply.

The Legislature can appropriate money to fix a memorial or monument, but the state’s budget troubles make that unlikely for now.

Ecker’s department received some relief in 2008, when a law required those funding new tributes to pay a 10 percent surcharge to help fund upkeep on any memorial or monument. But that went away this year, when legislation tweaked the law to require that the surcharge fund only maintenance on the new tribute.

The latest version of the law, which took effect last month, stemmed from concerns raised by those pushing for an Enduring Freedom Memorial to honor veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Smith, former chairman of the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission and head of a subcommittee that worked on the Enduring Freedom Memorial, said proponents weren’t comfortable being burdened with repair bills that are others’ responsibility under Arizona law.

“Six years of planning and a lot of money went into getting the Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans memorial ready, and we didn’t have a problem setting aside money for maintenance,” Smith said. “But we wanted it to be maintenance funding for our memorial.”

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who sponsored the 2008 law and the law that took effect last month, said he latest change is fair to those trying to raise money for memorials and monuments.

“We wanted to make sure any future repairs would have a way to get paid for, but in such a way that we don’t discourage anyone from putting money toward a new monument,” he said.

Ecker said he thought the 2008 law would be the best way to keep all of the monuments and memorials well-maintained. He said his agency would keep working with the Legislature on a solution.

“We’re going to have to have this conversation again in the future,” he said.

Ecker’s department has had an easier time with some other monuments and memorials in need of help. When a World War I monument was vandalized, for example, a veterans group stepped in to pay for repairs.

Alice Duckworth, outreach coordinator for the Arizona State Capitol Museum, said some other monuments, such as one honoring World War I pilot Frank Luke, also need repairs. Letting them decay diminishes the impact of Wesley Bolin Plaza and the Capitol grounds, she said.

“It’s a park that people from all over the world visit,” Duckworth said. “When you let the monuments fall apart, it says that you don’t respect them.”

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