Council authorizes East Lubbock land transfer agreement for Texas State Veterans Cemetery

The Texas General Land office estimates that more than 21,540 Texas Veterans in the Lubbock community and beyond will be served by the grant.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 8:11 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:27 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - With the federal government’s offer to fund the construction of the Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Lubbock, the City Council is moving forward with the agreement to transfer land to the Texas General Land Office and Texas Veterans Land Board, which will oversee its operations.

“It’s been somewhat typical of projects that involve other funding agencies,” City Manager Jarrett Atkinson told the Council. “It speeds up. It slows down. I would tell you that where you sit today, it has not just sped up, it has two feet on the gas pedal.”

Last April the Council approved the donation of land owned by the City just outside East Loop 289 for the cemetery project. With the Department of Veterans Affairs grant offer on February 24 of $9.5 million to construct the cemetery, Tuesday the Council gave authority to Mayor Tray Payne and Atkinson to execute the donation agreement and complete the transfer of the 100 acres off East 50th Street to the State of Texas.

“This project will continue to go quickly,” Atkinson told the Council. “We will immediately begin the process, number one, of annexing this land. It needs to be pulled into the city limits and we will have that back in front of you as we go forward. There’s some minor work on the site. There are a couple of old agricultural wells that we have agreed we will plug, take them out of the system, get them over there for them to use. It will get pretty hot and heavy as we approach May. That’s when we’ll get ready to do the final transfers. Then by mid-summer, you will see the State of Texas through the Texas Veterans Land Board actually go out to bid.”

The land, which is 0.6 miles east of Loop 289 and north of what is proposed Lake 7, was called into question by some during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Having a place to honor those who have shown the highest levels of sacrifice and patriotism with their military service is a demonstration of our city’s character and values,” Joshua Shankles told the Council. “However, the current unavoidable problem here isn’t the veteran cemetery. The problem is what will be the cemetery’s neighbors. The proposed site for this solemn place of honor is a half-mile downwind of Lubbock’s only feedlot.”

Retired Army veteran John Shipley also believes the cemetery should not be north of that feedlot and said he and another veteran did not find the property appropriate.

“The chosen location is not ideal for a burial cemetery,” Shipley said. “Veterans deserve better than their final resting place as a sewage field. Yes, I know the field has been taken out of service for the last few years but adjacent are areas that remain gray farms, sewage fields.”

Mayor Payne asked Atkinson about those objections to the location.

“There have been no reservations, there have been no concerns expressed either by the federal or the state government,” Atkinson said. “An environmental assessment has been done on the property, had been done not by the City of Lubbock and turned over, but by the State of Texas. There are no lingering issues or concerns on the property.”

Atkinson said the property was ultimately chosen by a group of citizens, including five local retired military generals.

The Texas General Land office estimates that more than 21,540 Texas Veterans in the Lubbock community and beyond will be served by the grant to establish the cemetery. It will be one of five Texas State Veterans Cemeteries in Texas and the first constructed in 12 years.

“We have a large population of what we call underserved veterans,” Councilman Steve Massengale said. “As we consider where families would bury their loved ones, those that have served and fought for freedom and liberty, Lubbock is in a real good place. Having dedicated the land was the leverage that we needed for the federal government and the state government to buy into our concept.”

The Council unanimously approved the consent agenda items, which included this authorization for the property transfer.