OMAHA, Nebraska — Crews have begun working at the future site of the long-awaited Omaha National Cemetery in western Sarpy County.
Local officials have been discussing plans for the cemetery for more than a decade. But they weren't able to immediately make it a reality due to a Department of Veterans Affairs rule requiring at least 170,000 veterans to live within a 75-mile radius of the proposed site.
President Obama's administration relaxed the rule in 2009 and started budgeting for the cemetery in 2010. A VA committee selected the site south of Interstate 80 and purchased it for $6.2 million in 2012.
Excavators recently arrived at the site and are now digging to clear space for roads, buildings drainage and graves. The cemetery's first employee, director Cindy Van Bibber, moved on Sept. 8 into a temporary trailer on the south side of the property, the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1WsS72n ) reported.
"It's nice to know it's actually happening," Van Bibber said. "We've been talking about it for so long."
Once completed, the Omaha National Cemetery will be situated in rolling hills that were once used for farming.
"This is going to be one magnificent site," Van Bibber said. "I don't think they could have found a prettier piece of property than this one."
Construction will continue into 2018 on the first phase of the cemetery, which will include 5,500 in-ground and above-ground plots for casketed and cremated remains, permanent administrative and maintenance buildings, an honor-guard building, and a public information center.
The VA plans to open a small portion of the property for in-ground burials in about a year.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com