ELKO – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be moving forward with a long-sought national cemetery in Elko for veterans by asking the City of Elko to provide water service to a site for the proposed cemetery.
The VA is offering to pay for the design and construction of a special water line to the location, which is 15 acres of land near the Adobe Middle School that would fall under the county’s jurisdiction because it is outside city limits.
The site at the intersection of Cattle Drive and Western Way isn’t served by the city because it is at a higher elevation that the city’s water tanks, so the VA is proposing the new line and a booster station to pump 200 gallons per minute, according to the agenda for the Elko City Council’s 4 p.m. Jan. 8 meeting.
The council will be asked to consider whether in exchange for the VA paying for the design and construction of the water line and pump station, the city would accept maintenance of the line and waive connection fees.
In turn, the city would charge one and a half times the city rate for water service, the agenda states.
When Dean Heller was still a U.S. senator last year, he proposed a bill in Congress to establish a veterans’ cemetery in Elko, which would provide another national cemetery to join ones at Boulder City and Fernley.
Heller, a Republican who lost in the November election, said in February 2018 that “Nevada’s heroes deserve a dignified final resting place close to home, and for too long these veterans and their families have not had the option to bury their loved ones in a national cemetery.”
His bill called for the transfer of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Elko to the VA for the cemetery, and Elko County Commissioners talked about the bill at February 2018 meeting, expressing support but voicing concerns about who pays for the upkeep of the cemetery.
“I think northeastern Nevada will be well-served by a veterans’ cemetery. We have a large number of veterans, and this would be a great service,” Elko County Manager Rob Stokes said on Jan. 4.
He said the county hasn’t heard anything regarding a possible cemetery since last February, but the county has supported earlier efforts to develop a veterans’ cemetery in Elko County. The county offered to donate land for a VA cemetery near the Elko Hot Hole years ago, he said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced back in 2012 it was looking at providing burial services for veterans in rural areas, but no plans for a cemetery materialized then. An audit two years later showed veterans in rural Nevada still didn’t have options, according to an Elko Daily Free Press article on the Feb. 21, 2018, county meeting.
Greg Deimel, public affairs office for the Elko BLM office, told commissioners then that every VA cemetery he has seen is well-kept, and he said Heller had staffers investigate potential sites for a cemetery back in 2015. Deimel wasn’t available on Jan. 4 for new comment on the land transfer because of the partial federal government shutdown.