EFFINGHAM — A county committee has declined to move forward a request to erect a sign along a county road to honor a local serviceman killed in action.
The Effingham County Board Road and Bridge Committee on Tuesday heard from relatives of Keith Tipsword, a Navy serviceman who was killed at Pearl Harbor, in a final attempt to have a sign resurrected in Tipsword's memory, despite the matter not being on the committee's agenda.
Tipsword's relatives, Jerry White of Altamont and Kenny Tipsword of Edgewood, had previously requested a sign be placed near the Altamont blacktop, on County Road 25, to honor Keith Tipsword, who was one of two Effingham County natives killed in the 1941 attack. At its May meeting, the committee opted to look into creating a policy for honorary sign placement along county highways.
White suggested the committee did not want to put the sign up because the county would have to mow around it. Committee Chairman Joe Thoele said that was not the case.
Thoele said the sign request did not appear on Tuesday's agenda because he was not comfortable moving forward with creating a policy for such signage. Thoele added that if this sign was allowed, it would create a precedent for others asking for signs for their loved ones, making it difficult to decide who gets a sign and who doesn't.
"It's not the ones you say yes to. It's the ones you say no to. It's the mom whose 14-, 15-year-old kid that died because of a drunk driver just going to school. What about the nurse in the hospital fire? Maybe someone wants to put a memorial up for her," Thoele said.
Kenny Tipsword said while the requested sign would only feature the name of one person, Keith Tipsword's family feels a sign would represent all county servicemen and women who did not make it home. White suggested adding the initialism for those killed in action, KIA, to the signs to signify who can be honored by the signs.
Kenny Tipsword asked the committee to send a message to today's young people by allowing a sign to be placed in his cousin's honor.
"Somewhere there's got to be some red, white and blue in this county government. You pass resolutions...to send a message. Why can't you do this to send a message to our youth of today that if you volunteer, you don't come home safe, we respect your memory," Kenny Tipsword said.
County Board Chairman Jim Niemann, who sat in on the meeting, said the committee, board and himself are patriotic as he and others have family members who served.
Thoele said the family could opt to have Keith Tipsword's name put on the Effingham County Veterans Memorial, just as it is on memorials in Altamont and Beecher City.
Committee Member Jeff Simpson said the committee did not further discuss the memorial sign because there are other memorials that honor Keith Tipsword, among other reasons.
"If we would take it to the board today, I don't think it would pass. We don't have a set of criteria to allow the proper people to be honored without leaving somebody out, and we don't want to do that," Simpson said. "If there weren't other memorials around, like Altamont and Beecher City, then it would be a different story to me. We're just saying that there are other memorials dedicated in his honor."
White left the meeting unsatisfied with the committee's decision not to move forward with the sign, vowing he and Kenny Tipsword would take their request to the state level.
"I'm just thoroughly, thoroughly upset and disgusted with you folks. All we wanted was a sign on the road," White said. "We may contact you to see if we can use the board room to sign a state proclamation by the governor. We're already in the process of working on that."
The Effingham County Board Building and Grounds Committee also met Tuesday. Niemann brought to the committee the results of a recent discussion he had with city officials regarding parking issues on Jefferson Avenue that were laid out by the previous mayoral administration.
"I offered a suggestion, and they seemed to think it was OK. I suggested that they not go with a 10-foot (wide) sidewalk, and then allow us — basically the memorial and the museum — to then sell pavers, and that way the memorial and the museum could make some money. They thought that was a great idea," Niemann said.
Niemann added that the city would like to see a 3-foot-wide curb, 5-foot-wide sidewalk and 2 feet for the pavers. He said he explained to the city that the Effingham County Veterans Memorial committee had concerns with the prior administration's plans for angled parking on Jefferson Avenue next to the Effingham County Museum lawn, and the city is willing to speak with the veterans groups about their concerns.
Thoele said he would be in favor of working with the city based on Niemann's suggestion but only if the memorial group was OK with the plans.
Meanwhile, the committee:
• Heard a proposal from Niemann regarding placing light posts near the newly resurfaced Effingham County Museum parking lot. The committee requested that Niemann discuss with the city the possibility of the city supplying electricity in exchange for the county installing the lights because the city often uses the lot for tourism events.
• Heard options to replace copiers in the county building and county courthouse. The matter was tabled to the Tax and Finance Committee meeting on Thursday.
• Heard from Chief Deputy Paul Kuhns that the repairs to the elevator in the county building may be completed by the end of the week should workers experience no issues.
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.