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Nearly $900,000 available to repair Louisiana Monument

Mary Elsa Hocker, left, and Patsy Lee make their way past the Louisiana Monument while speed walking in the Vicksburg National Military Park Wednesday afternoon. The park has been notified it is receiving $900,000 to repair the 81-foot-tall stone monument that was dismantled after being hit by lightning. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[02/08/01] The Vicksburg National Military Park has nearly $900,000 in hand to begin repairs to the lightning-damaged Louisiana Monument, but it will be a while before work begins.

Workers at the park had to disassemble the 81-foot-tall stone monument in 1999 after lightning strikes from early summer thunderstorms damaged it. The huge stone sections have been on the ground for the past two years waiting for repairs. The park received $50,000 in emergency funds but that did not last long.

Park Superintendent Bill Nichols said Wednesday he was notified late Tuesday the park had been given $897,000 from the National Park Service’s storm-damage funding account for Fiscal Year 2001.

“I was surprised to get it,” Nichols said. “This region had $8 million in needs, and they got only $2 million.”

Nichols said he was told by the regional office in Atlanta, the criteria used put the work on the Louisiana Monument on the top of the list.

He said he’s not sure of the next steps to repair the monument or when they will begin. The park service’s engineers and architects have already received assignments for this fiscal year.

“I’ll know more after I get back from meetings in Atlanta all next week,” Nichols said.

He also said he won’t know just how far the money will go until more is known about the condition of the monument’s base and sub-base foundation.

He said the first physical work will involve disassembling the base so it and the soil under it can be assessed.

“It’s possible we won’t have enough money to complete the restoration,” Nichols said.

Under the best possible circumstances, no problem is found with the base and foundation, the nearly $900,000 could be enough to reassemble the monument. Nichols believes the restoration will have to be done in two phases: repairs to the base and foundation first, followed by preparation of plans and specifications and then restoration.

Because of the situation with assignments already made for technical experts, Nichols said work probably won’t begin until later this year or early 2002.

The Louisiana Monument, built in 1920, is one of 27 monuments placed in the park to remember the soldiers who fought on the site during the Siege of Vicksburg.