By Jesse Wood
March 20, 2014. Two weeks ago, Watauga County maintenance staff broke ground on the fallen law enforcement officer memorial that will stand next to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office on Hodges Gap Road.
Maintenance director Robert Marsh said staff should be pouring concrete next month and that the grounds will be ready in 30 to 45 days for the china black granite memorial that the sheriff’s department has already ordered.
“The process is rolling along now,” Marsh said, adding that the timeframe, of course, is contingent upon weather.
In August 2013, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners agreed to fund the cost of the memorial – up to $53,000 – and agreed to use county staff to lower overall costs.
The project was originally bid out, and four contractors submitted bids to the county via architect Bill Dixon of Appalachian Architecture, who created a conceptual plan of the memorial and grounds and initially brought the project before the commissioners.
However, the lowest bidder passed away before the matter went before the commissioners and the second lowest responsible constructor submitted an offer of $82,614.99 – a sum which didn’t include the cost of the monument, estimated by the sheriff’s office to cost $7,000 to $12,000, because the sheriff’s office didn’t have that figure ready.
With Marsh providing an estimate that his department could do all of the work for $41,000 – minus the cost of the memorial, the commissioners directed the maintenance staff to construct the officer’s memorial.
After Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy William Mast Jr. was killed in the line of duty in July 2012, the sheriff’s department didn’t even have a flagpole to put at half-staff.
In all, the memorial will have six names – four of which died in the line of duty while two others died while actively serving. Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said that the memorial will feature the names of officers from Boone and Blowing Rock police departments and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.
Aside from Mast, other officers stationed in Watauga County that have died in the line of duty are former Boone Police Chief Hill Hagaman, who died Oct. 10, 1933; Blowing Rock Chief William Greene, who died Feb. 18, 1963; and Maj. Bob Kennedy of the Boone Police Department, who died July 17, 2002.
Chief Hill Hagaman died while conducting a liquor raid, which netted 22 pints of whiskey. Greene was fatally shot while pursuing a vehicle that contained two men and two women in the early a.m., and Kennedy was killed in an airplane accident while searching for marijuana crops in Chowan County.
“It’s certainly dedicated to all the officers,” Hagaman said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to add any more names.”
Hagaman said that local departments were all contributing man-hours to help with landscaping to enhance the project. Hagaman also said that the finished product – minus the stonewall – will end up being “pretty” close to Dixon’s initial conceptual plan that included benches, flagpoles, the monument and a stonewall.
See the attached conceptual plan and images of the architectural plans below.
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