By KIMBERLEE KRUESI Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) â€” Gov. C.L. â€śButchâ€ť Otter and other statewide elected officeholders approved a land transfer Tuesday necessary to begin an Idaho veterans cemetery in Blackfoot.
The four officials on the Idaho Land Board unanimously agreed to transfer 40 acres from the state Department of Health and Welfare to the state Division of Veterans Services.
State and federal officials have spent the past four years examining various sites throughout East Idaho to find a location for a second state veterans cemetery. The first cemetery opened in Boise in 2004. It now serves as the final resting place for roughly 6,500 servicemen and women.
Blackfoot Mayor Paul Loomis, a 26-year veteran of the United States Army, said his community is thrilled by the news that the veterans cemetery is one step closer to being constructed.
“Itâ€™s wonderful,â€ť Loomis said. â€śThis now frees us up to identify our requirements to make sure we get water and sewer out to the location, so they will be ready to go when construction starts.â€ť
The cemetery project is expected to cost $8.3 million. Dependent on the state receiving a $7.5 million federal grant sometime this year, construction on first phase of the cemetery project â€” which would develop about half of the 40-acre lot â€” could begin as early as September.
With the federal government taking up the majority of the construction expenses, the state will be in charge of preservation and maintenance.
According to the state, the proposed Blackfoot cemetery will serve approximately 23,000 eastern Idaho veterans and their families.
Currently, Idaho does not have a veterans national cemetery. Officials announced last year that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it had purchased 8 acres in Buhl to be a national cemetery.
The Idaho State Journal contributed to this story.