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Disputes over Maui Veterans Cemetery expansion delay work

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WAILUKU >> Officials are working to get a $6 million project to expand Maui’s only cemetery for veterans back on track before burial space runs out.

The project for Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao has been on hold since November after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was found to be in violation of federal historic preservation laws, according to The Maui News.

A department spokesman said Friday that the agency’s review of how the project will affect the neighboring Makawao Cemetery will be completed “very soon.”

The state Department of Defense oversees veterans cemeteries in Hawaii and has been planning and designing the expansion project.

“We’re doing everything we can to serve our veterans,” said state Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Anthony. “Right now, it’s a matter of when we can resume construction.”

Anthony said the federal lawsuit brought by the Makawao Cemetery Association could delay work at the veterans cemetery.

Makawao Cemetery Association officials, however, say the state Department of Defense has been deceptive by telling the public that the lawsuit is blocking the burial of more veterans. They claim the department has been unwilling to settle disputes with representatives of the neighboring cemetery.

A hearing on the case is expected next month.

Officials believe that the cemetery currently has about 44 open burial sites. Representatives of Family Mortuary said they arrange about 12 burials there each month.

“We’ve done the calculations and the cemetery could be filled by March or April at this rate,” said Mitch Skaggerberg, president of the Maui County Veterans Council. “I’ve been here 40 years, and we’ve never been faced with this challenge before. To turn away veterans — it’s never happened. We need to do something very quickly.”

Skaggerberg said he plans on holding a meeting of 100 to 200 veterans next month to discuss the cemetery issue and create a plan to address concerns.

“It’s really getting the veterans together and hearing our voice first, and then we’ll be much closer to coming up with a solution without waiting the next five or eight months,” he said.

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