County may sue company over dud kiosks in half-million dollar veterans memorial

GARNETT – The Anderson County Veterans Memorial project which took 10 years to come to fruition and nearly $500,000 in private and public tax money to build still isn’t working. Local veterans groups want answers, and county commissioners are considering a lawsuit against the east coast company they say never held up their end of the deal.

In their first public statement on the issue since it began three years ago, VFW Post 6397 and American Legion Post 48 in Garnett say the continued lack of function by the computer systems sold to the county by Advanced Kiosks which should operate in the memorial’s turret computer screens have been a near continual failure in honoring the names of the Anderson County veterans who were the point of the entire memorial to begin with.

“In its present state, it may be an esthetically pleasing structure that shows the seals of the five branches of the U. S. Military,” said the statement signed by Vietnam veterans Clarence Herman, who presently served as commander of both VFW Post 6397 and American Legion Post 48 in Garnett, “but it does nothing to honor the individual veterans from Anderson County, Kansas.”

“While the kiosks that should display the county’s veterans from our nation’s conflicts operated intermittently for a short time after the dedication, they do not operate today and have not for several years,” the joint statement read.

The status of the memorial seems to continue a pattern of struggle which states back to the initial effort to construct a tribute to the county’s veterans that began in 2011. County Commissioners instituted a property tax mill levy in the county budget shortly after the organizational committee’s Inception, and discontinued that fund in 2020 after it had raised nearly a half million dollars in local property taxes to pay for the project. Local donations were accepted as well, allowing inscribed memorial bricks to be purchased for the plaza walkway for $100 a piece.

Advanced Kiosk’s website promotes “Tribute Stations” specifically designed for functions like the Anderson County memorial.

“In every community, there are stories that deserve to be told,” says the Advanced Kiosk website. “Heroes who should never be forgotten, and milestones that mark our collective journey.”

“Our product is more than just a platform; it’s a canvas where memories are painted, achievements are celebrated, and the legacies of loved ones are immortalized.”

Anderson County paid about $60,000 to the company for the project, Anderson County Clerk Julie Wettstein said.

But even at that time of its unveiling in June 2021, the kiosks weren’t 100% functional. The memorial committee arrived at a consensus that the project would feature computerized view screens on kiosks with information, photos and even videos of some 5,000 county military veterans included in its database. That database could be updated periodically, unlike granite slabs etched with names of honorees as is typical in memorials that predated the technology. But that technology – the bill for which is now fully paid and the warranty expired, never worked – or at least it didn’t work for long.

Advanced Kiosks, based in Concord, has not returned the Informer’s emails and phone calls seeking comment. Anderson County Clerk Julie weststein said there were several problems with the kiosks.

“We’ve had issues with the IR frames (the touch sensor) not lining up correctly and having to replace it,” Wettstein said.  “At this time the fans in the kiosks are not working and they (the computer displays) do not reboot if the power goes out. It has been an ongoing issue. They are paid in full and warranty has expired.”

County commissioners appeared to have arrived at a consensus at a recent meeting that the only option left was to go to court, and said they planned to meet with their county legal counsel about filing suit.

“At this point about the only way we’re going to get anywhere is to get in their pocket,” said @nd District Commissioner Tony Mersman.

Veterans and their families just want answers, they say, and they want the memorial fixed.

“We feel strongly that it would be in the interest of our community to find out why the Veterans Memorial is not operable and what, if anything, is being done to correct the situation,” their statement said, “so that our veterans can be properly recognized as intended.”

Dane Hicks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He is the author of novels "The Skinning Tree" and "A Whisper For Help." As publisher of the Anderson County Review in Garnett, KS., he is a recipient of the Kansas Press Association's Boyd Community Service Award as well as more than 60 awards for excellence in news, editorial and photography.

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