Marseilles commissioner adamant about Middle East memorial museum location

Jim Buckingham feels it should stay where it is – for now

The debate over the location of the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Museum continued at the Marseilles City Council meeting Wednesday night, only focused more on whether it will move even a few feet.

Marseilles Commissioner Jim Buckingham voiced his objections to the suggestion that the city would choose to move the museum away from the northeast corner of the building to a larger area on the upper level of the building – or even to an area a few feet further into the building.

His reaction was in response to early floor plans of the renovated building showing that it would include a “community center” on the ground floor, although the plans for the renovation still are in the formulative stages.

“I’ve watched the [Veterans Administration] bus come in here two and three times a year, see the veterans in wheelchairs come in one side, go through the building and then go out,” Buckingham said. “I would be embarrassed as [heck] to watch those veterans forming a line waiting to get on an elevator to go to the second floor to see that museum. The veterans don’t deserve that.

“I’ve seen people who’ve seen the sign on the interstate pull up after hours, see people looking in the windows just to catch a glimpse of what’s in the display, people wanting to pay their respects. … I just want to make sure it stays right where it is.”

Buckingham said he is not opposed to an expansion of the current museum, which early drawings show could expand from 20 feet by 27 feet to 25 feet by 50 feet in size.

Nor is Buckingham opposed to moving the museum at some time to another building on the memorial’s complex – to an area across the parking lot to where a concrete slab known as the “helicopter pad” could serve as a potential base for a new building. That move would be pending the independent raising of funds likely in excess of $200,000.

However, he is adamantly against moving the museum away from the corner of the old Illinois Valley Cellular building or anywhere else within its walls, especially for a community center, when there is a “perfectly good one” already in town, he said, referencing the Marseilles Ministerial Association Community Center at 850 Bluff St.

“In the meantime, when, down the road, they do get that building built,” Buckingham said, “I want it to stay right where it’s at.”

The council also heard a report from Commissioner Melissa Small regarding a new contract between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police for the period extending from 2024 through 2028.

“We actually got things pieced together over three weeks, and that was because we had to wait for schedules to come together,” Small said. “I think both sides are very pleased with how well things came together, and we’re happy with how this will keep Marseilles competitive and on par with other communities for the best officers in a time when there is such a shortage.”

Small also reported that the city saved about $8,000 on a new Ford Police Interceptor utility vehicle by opting for a brand-new 2024 model as opposed to a 2025 model. Once the vehicle is fitted with the appropriate police equipment, it should be a part of the rolling stock by mid-April.

In other action, the council:

  • welcomed new City Attorney Christina Cantlin VanWiggeren, who will step in to that role now that former attorneys Rich Burton and Mike Fuller have chosen to “slow down,” Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said.
  • approved a special event permit for the Marseilles Freedom Fest on June 15 and waived the fee for said permit.
  • approved the payment of $94,638 for the Broadway Street playground equipment, although city engineer Michael Etscheid voiced disappointment in what that sum netted.
  • adopted a resolution allowing for the formation of a beautification committee for the city of Marseilles.
  • read into the record a proclamation citing April as Junior Achievement Month.