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Report finds lighting among key problems at Veterans Memorial

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The lights are still out at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, and it's going to take some major work to get them back on.

A recent review found the electrical system is shot, the lighting fixtures have failed and the filtration system for the reflecting pool needs significant repairs.

The state Department of Administration hired Morgantown engineering firm Mills Group LLC in February to conduct an architectural and engineering review. In conducting their review, engineers with the Mills Group reviewed blueprints from 1988 and made on-site inspections.

The firm submitted a written report to the Department of Administration last month.

In addition to electrical and drainage issues, engineers also found problems with masonry, including cracked paving stones, failing joints and damages caused by lawnmowers.

The monument's four large pylons are in good condition and need only minor repairs. The interior granite veneer, which contains veterans' names, also is in good shape.

 The low limestone walls surrounding the monument are in "decent condition," according to the report, with deterioration, chips and cracks that do not affect their structural integrity.

The biggest problems are with the lighting and the reflecting pool's filtration and drainage systems.

"Very few of the lights are in working order and have long since been discontinued from their manufacturer," reviewers wrote. "A complete lighting replacement is required."

The monument was originally supposed to be feature a central "sunburst" spotlight, while the rest of the memorial remained dark. Motion sensors would detect visitors, at which point the central light would be switched off and "wash lights" would illuminate the walls.

That lighting plan has never really worked. The controller for the central light failed at some point, and the wash lights were switched to a photocell, dusk-to-dawn style controller.

Lighting has continued to be a problem over the last 20 years, as drainage systems malfunctioned and water caused lighting fixtures to fail.

Engineers recommended the state replace the monument's entire electrical system, install a new controller for the lighting, and retrofit the current lights with newer LED fixtures.

"LED fixtures provide a much longer life cycle than the traditional metal halide fixtures currently installed," the report said.

The report also recommends LEDs be installed in the reflecting pool, where neon lights originally were installed.

The reflecting pool also is showing signs of deterioration, engineers found. The water line between the memorial's pump room and the pool is faulty, and its automatic fill system is not functional.

Pipes for the pool's filtration system also are faulty. Engineers said the current vacuum filtration system is "ineffective at best and does not circulate the water in a manner which prevents the growth of algae and bacteria."

The report recommends replacing the pipes and installing an automatic pool vacuum.

Engineers recommended "a more conservative approach" to problems with the masonry. They said the state should refurbish the existing stone rather than replace it.

"We feel that the unintended and unanticipated consequences of a well-intentioned intervention are very often regrettable but the scars are permanent," the report said.

The report recommends replacing some of the cracked granite pavers inside the monument, and resealing failed masonry joints. Wall surfaces should be buffered and polished, and then cleaned with a gentle chemical wash.

Some damages were caused by human error. Lawnmowers have scraped the exterior limestone walls, which are now "scuffed and gouged." Engineers recommended placing paving stones between the walls and the lawn to prevent further damage.

Grounds workers also should stop using salt to melt ice on the monument's walkways, the report recommended.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said the state's General Services Division, which maintains the Capitol grounds, is currently reviewing the report with the Mills Group to decide what actions it will take in repairing the monument.

Brown said there is no set timeline for the renovations but said work could begin later this year. The state would have to bid out a contract for construction, however.

"Just like any project, we have the design contract and then we have the construction contract," she said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at

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