Keokuk rolls dirt on new cemetery road

National Cemetery to get $3.5 million roadway

Dignitaries toss dirt as part of the ground breaking ceremony Friday at the Keokuk National Cemetery.
Dignitaries toss dirt as part of the ground breaking ceremony Friday at the Keokuk National Cemetery.
Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

KEOKUK – Local and state dignitaries rolled the dirt over on a new road construction project Friday afternoon that will make a trip to the Keokuk National Cemetery more pleasing.
In a bipartisan effort, Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney welcomed representatives to the entrance of the cemetery to break ground on a new $3.5 million paving project that will result in a brand new concrete surface for 18th Street from Main Street to the entrance of the cemetery.
The project is being funded by a $5 million capital bond the city sold minus about $960,000 that was earmarked for the work as part of a Congressional appropriation secured by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Mahoney said there is also about $4,600 in donations from area veterans for the work. Any additional funds remaining from the bond will be put to use on other city road needs, she said.
Mahoney said the project began when 1st Congressional candidate Christine Bohannan, who's challenging Miller-Meeks again this year for the 1st District seat, sent a letter in 2022 to President Joe Biden and Governor Kim Reynolds to have S. 18th Street designated as a Road of Honor.
Mahoney said, although the designation didn’t contribute to the congressional funding, the work of both parties helped secure the designation and funding to create the new roadway.
“What a great day for Keokuk and what a great day for our veterans,” Mahoney said.
“Today we break ground on this road that will lead to the hallowed grounds of our Keokuk National Cemetery assuring better access and tribute for the generations to come.”
The Iowa Dignity Project in early 2022 put out a survey that said Keokuk’s road conditions received a grade of an F. That survey resulted in the Road of Honor committee being assembled to start improvements with 18th Street to the cemetery.
In 2023, State Sen. Jeff Reichman reached out to city officials to see if they had applied for Congressional funding for the stretch of road. The city had not moved on the application, but at Reichman’s urging, the city started working with Miller-Meeks’ staff to get an application in under a quick deadline for the annual appropriations.
Former 1st District Congressman Dave Loebsack spoke at the event on behalf of Bohannan as she had family obligations she couldn’t get away from.
Loebsack said the effort was a bipartisan effort through the work of Bohannan and Miller-Meeks.
“This has been a bipartisan project. That’s why you have someone here representing Congresswoman Miller-Meeks because she was able to get significant money. But it’s been bipartisan since the beginning,” the 14-year congressman said.
He said he heard about the project on his way out in 2021 and Bohannan as a candidate took up the effort. However, he said her letter probably “fell on deaf ears” at the time.
It takes a lot of time and energy and people working together to get a project like this together. And then I was more than pleased to see Congresswoman Miller-Meeks take this up as well and I think that represents how bipartisan this issue is,” he said.
“As I’ve always said, veterans issues should never be partisan, because veterans don’t really care whether you're Democrat or Republican or neither one.”
Mahoney said Miller-Meeks staff reached out to Keokuk to let them know there was money available for the project. Along with Miller-Meeks and Sen. Reichman, and Rep. Martin Graber, and the initial attention of Bohannan, the city was able to pull together an application and secure funding.
Joe Krunzelok, the district director for Miller-Meeks, said the Congresswoman had to be in Washington D.C. to fulfill voting obligations.
“For years S. 18th Street was patched but never received adequate resurfacing. Today we can proudly say that, with a newly repaved road, Iowans can properly honor our veterans.
“When Sen. Reichman and Rep. Graber brought this to our attention we got to work,”  Krunzelok said.
“As a 24-year veteran, the Congresswoman was eager to request the $960,000 from the House Appropriations committee, which was approved.”
Miller-Meeks addressed Congress on Thursday regarding the road.
“When local and state officials were unable to get the funding, my office was able to deliver federal Community Project Funding to repave the road so that Iowans could properly honor our departed veterans. This was made possible after Iowa State Senator Jeff Reichman and Representative Martin Graber first brought the project to my attention. I also thank Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney’s involvement as the federal funds were dispersed," Miller-Meeks' said.
Mahoney said there were several working parts to getting the project underway. She said Bohannan’s initial work got the project going, and then working with the local legislators and the Keokuk City Council and numerous volunteer committee and veterans’ groups brought the project to fruition.

Keokuk, Lee county, legislators, city council, Kathie Mahoney, Jeff Reichman, Marianette Miller-Meeks, Martin Graber, Christine Bohannan, news, pen City current,


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here