Last summer, the City of Klamath Falls and Klamath County agreed to use $600,000 in COVID relief funds to put a retired F-15 fighter jet in Veteran’s Memorial Park on the edge of Lake Ewauna near downtown.
The plane would come from Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base, which is close by. According to the website for the base, it is where all Air Force and National Guard F-15 pilots learn.
The city says that plans to put a retired jet in one of its parks have been going on since 2015.
At the city council meeting on May 16, 2022, a model of the fighter jet display in Veterans Memorial Park was shown.
Thanks to the City of Klamath Falls for this
Ed Schilling, who lives in Klamath Falls, is one of the people who planned the protest against the jet installation. He said that homeless veterans sometimes sleep in or near the park and that the government aid money could be better used for services to help them.
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“You’ve got people with PTSD, people who are suffering from substance abuse and so on,” Schilling said. “And these funds, I think, should be used much more humanely than mounting this jet.”
Schilling said that COVID relief money should not be used for this project. The city council of Klamath Falls doesn’t agree.
“Our council has determined that to help improve our economy and tourism to our community, this is an appropriate use of those funds,” said Klamath Falls Public Information Officer Kristina Mainwaring.
The U.S. Treasury Department says that funding for “responding to the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic” can’t be used for general economic development or “activities that… generally improve the jurisdiction’s business climate.”
But Mainwaring said that the city thinks of this project as “replacing lost public sector revenue,” since the city lost money from tourism during the pandemic. Mainwaring said that they are making this display to bring more tourists to the city.
The rules for this group are much more general. The Treasury Department says that “Revenue loss is the most flexible eligible use category under the [State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds] program.”
Mainwaring also said that ARPA money was used to pay for other projects, like building playgrounds, fixing up pools, and putting up new trash cans in the downtown area. Those projects didn’t get any criticism, though.
She said that the city already works with other groups to help soldiers and people without homes in Klamath Falls.
Because people are upset, the city is thinking about moving the display to the other side of Veteran’s Memorial Park, where there are several other memorials and displays for soldiers.
On Saturday, Schilling and other people from the area are going to march downtown. They’ll end at the park, where they’ll put flowers on the ground to show how much room the jet display will take up.
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