AP NEWS

Fairbanks veterans’ cemetery may not survive state budget

February 28, 2019

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A proposed veterans’ cemetery faces an uncertain future after its funding was eliminated in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s capital budget.

A fiscal 2020 budget proposal by former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, included $1.12 million to move cemetery construction forward, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

Dunleavy, a Republican elected in November, sliced the money out of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs budget, along with a $500,000 federal match. The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Construction at the site at Mile 344 Parks Highway in Fairbanks was set to be completed as early as 2022. Walker and other dignitaries last year held a dedication ceremony for what would have been interior Alaska’s only veterans’ cemetery.

Multiple Fairbanks legislators pushed for the cemetery, including former Democratic Rep. David Guttenberg when he took office in 2005. Guttenberg’s nephew, Rep. Grier Hopkins, also a Democrat, said he’s disappointed that funding was eliminated.

“We had received an outpouring of support from the veterans in the Interior and rural Alaska who want to be buried with the recognition that they served their country,” Hopkins said. “Seeing it cut without letting people know or talking to veterans is disheartening.”

Hopkins said he hopes lawmakers from both parties will restore the funding during the current legislative session.

“So I’m going to go reach out to some of them and make sure they’re aware,” Hopkins said.

Alaska has two veterans’ cemeteries: Fort Richardson National Cemetery on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage and Sitka National Cemetery in Sitka.

The Fairbanks area has the second highest concentration of veterans, with an estimated 13,900 residing within a 75-miles (120-kilometers) radius, according to the budgetary project description.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Walker’s party affiliation.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com