Veterans memorial coming in Reno

A new veterans memorial facility will soon stand near the Ohio River on the former U.S. Army Reserve property in Reno, according to Greg Smith, vice president of development for Mark Mondo Building and Excavating, Inc. that’s constructing the memorial.

The memorial is part of a joint development plan between Mondo and the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority that will also include a business park with offices and possible recreational space in the former Army Reserve building on the north side of the property.

“But we’re working on the veterans memorial first,” Smith said. “The memorial will be located on the back side of the Reserve property and will include 80- to 100-foot poles flying American flags, the largest in the area, as well as a memorial wall where veterans organizations and families can post memorials to those who have served.”

He said a “serenity view” area will be provided where visitors will be able to take some time for reflection from a deck overlooking the Ohio River.

“Also, the reserve center property is located along Ohio 7, adjacent to the East Lawn Memorial Park and Valley Cemetery where many veterans are buried,” Smith added. “People at the cemetery can also go directly to the veterans memorial as part of their visit.”

The memorial will represent all of the military services, including reserve and National Guard veterans.

“We don’t want to ever forget our veterans who have served this nation,” Smith said. “And Mark Mondo is a very patriotic man who often works behind the scenes to support and honor veterans in the Reno and Marietta areas.”

Engineering and cleanup of the veterans memorial site has already begun, Smith said, noting that the memorial project could be completed this year.

“That property has been vacant for over 17 years, and we wanted to develop a solution that would benefit the community,” he said. “It’s a great place for a memorial, and we believe it will become a destination location helping to draw visitors to this area. And the business facility will help bring more jobs and employment here.”

Dave Haas, secretary and treasurer of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority Board of Directors, said the memorial will be a good fit for that area as it honors all veterans, including those who once served through the U.S. Army Reserve Center at that location.

“I think this joint venture with Mondo will be a great partnership all around,” he said. “We now have the deed to the Reserve Center Business Park, LLC, which is what we’ve named the facility, and the veterans memorial should be done later this summer.”

Mark Mondo Building and Excavating purchased the 17-acre property for $550,000 in a private-public partnership with SEOPA that took a couple of years to complete as the process had to be authorized by the federal Government Services Administration (GSA).

The GSA had declared the reserve center excess property, making the site available to other local governmental agencies, but there was little interest. So the quasi-governmental port authority, working with the GSA, began seeking a private sector partnership to purchase and develop the property.

“Washington State Community College was originally planning to take the property from the government, but a plan had to be in place for the facility, and WSCC was facing some budgetary challenges at that time,” Haas explained.

The SEOPA had no money to purchase the property, so the agency sought a public-private partnership that would allow the former reserve property to be bought and developed.

Mondo was one of two entities that submitted proposals for use of the property in 2012. The other was MPR Alliance, a Bellaire drilling supply business that planned to develop a barge loading and unloading facility at the former reserve location to serve area oil and gas drilling sites.

In July of 2012 the port authority decided to partner with Mondo who proposed renovating the reserve center building for use as office and light manufacturing space for job creation, as well as developing the veterans memorial park.

Mondo put 10 percent down on the $550,000 purchase price, and paid the rest when the SEOPA received the deed during closing with the GSA earlier this year.

“As a port authority we did way more than was required to obtain that property,” Haas said, noting public meetings with the community that included owners of neighboring property to the former reserve site.

He said the authority board agonized for some time before making the decision, but in the end the board believed Mondo’s plan was best for the surrounding community.

“It’s not totally about bringing in business and economic development,” Haas said. “I think the sensitivity to what would be done at that facility was important, not only to the neighboring cemetery, but to the entire community.”

According to figures provided in the SEOPA’s proposal for development of the former reserve property, the partnership with Mondo on the project will have an estimated total benefit to the community and the port authority of $2.8 million.