TOWANDA - The construction of the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park in Towanda is expected to begin shortly, officials said.

At its meeting this week, the Towanda Borough Council authorized putting the first phase of the park's construction out to bid.

Currently, there is approximately $260,000 available to pay for the first phase, including $156,000 in unspent funds from a state grant that was awarded to help pay for the development of the park, and approximately $100,000 that has been raised by the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park Association, said Joe Doherty, a spokesman for the association.

The first phase, which is the work that is scheduled to take place this construction season, will include a paved parking lot; lighting for the parking lot; a sidewalk leading from the Sen. Roger A. Madigan Gateway Park to the Veterans Memorial Park; retaining walls; a handicapped-access ramp and stairway leading from the parking lot to an upper level, where the park's monuments will be located; and a wrought-iron fence between the parking lot and the upper level, according to Doherty and Towanda Borough Manager Tom Fairchild Jr.

One of the retaining walls will serve as a base for six flags, including the flags for the five branches of the U.S. military and a POW/MIA flag, Doherty said.

"We are totally elated that the construction is starting," said Doherty, who is the founder of the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park Association.

Construction of the first phase is scheduled to begin this summer, Doherty said. "Hopefully we'll be able to finish Phase I by this fall," he said.

Construction of the park has not been able to start yet because work on the installation of a water line to Wysox Township was taking place on the property where the park will be constructed.

Construction of the water line has delayed the start of the park's construction by about six weeks, Fairchild said.

So far, the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park Association has sold 574 granite pavers, which will be installed permanently in the park at a later date - hopefully next spring, Fairchild said. The pavers, which measure 4 inches by 8 inches, honor particular veterans.

The installation of the pavers and benches, as well as the construction of a plaza for an open-air rotunda, constitute Phase II of the park's construction, which is scheduled to take place next year, Doherty said.

The construction of the park's monuments will take place in the third and final phase of the park's construction. "They're coming," said George Crowell, chief administration officer of the association.

While the funding for Phase I has already been secured, "the need now for funding is critical" in order to pay for Phase II, Doherty said after the meeting. Doherty said he believes that the association still needs to raise about $80,000 for Phase II, as well as additional funds for Phase III.

The benches "pay tribute to the historical battles that the U.S. has fought," such as Iwo Jima and Pearl Harbor, Doherty said. Benches cost $4,000 to sponsor.

There are many more 4-inch by 8-inch granite pavers that are still available for purchase, whose price was recently increased from $50 to $75, he said.

In addition, there are one-foot by one-foot pavers available for $275 each and two-foot by two-foot pavers available for $3,000, Doherty said.

Companies could choose to help sponsor the park by purchasing one of the larger pavers, and could have their company logo engraved in the paver, Doherty said.

Alternatively, a family with a lot of veterans might choose to purchase a larger paver, on which information about the veterans could be engraved, Doherty said. "Two or three families have bought one-foot by one-foot pavers," he said.

The park will be located on a borough-owned parcel bordered by the Merrill Parkway, the Robert Farley Connector, state Route 2027 and U.S. Route 6.

For more information about the park, the association, and how to donate, go to www.bcvmpa.org.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com