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Bids slow in coming for Tuskegee project

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 11:21 a.m.
An artist's rendering of the Tuskegee memorial in Sewickley.

Though they did not get the bids they had hoped for, Tuskegee Airmen Memorial project officials are optimistic that phase one still can be completed by the end of January as scheduled.

Crescendo Group Consultants Inc. President Rich Dieter said a bid request went out in mid-October for the project that will honor the large number of Western Pennsylvanians who were affiliated with the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black Army Air Corps unit, but the response has been slow.

“We've had smaller contractors that might have been interested until they saw all of the paperwork required by the county” to complete the project, he said.

And larger contractors might see it as too small of a job, one that might not be as profitable for them, Dieter said.

Though they are “at the mercy of the weather,” Dieter said, once they find a contractor, phase one can be completed in a matter of weeks as long as the ground doesn't freeze.

The Tuskegee Airmen memorial, which will be erected at Sewickley Cemetery, has undergone many changes since the project began four years ago.

Regis Bobonis Sr., founder and chairman of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region Inc., said at a ceremony last month the memorial had to be completely redesigned because of the increased number of names to be included on its monuments. Bobonis continues to find more Tuskegee Airmen from the area to honor.

The latest design presented in October features a plaza with four mourning benches, a monument with a granite Red Tail airplane, another featuring a Tuskegee Airmen mural and two granite towers boasting names of all 96 pilots, navigators, bombardiers and support crew members from the region.

The memorial will include quick response codes visitors with smartphones can scan to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and the people included on the monument.

Despite setbacks, the project continues to move forward.

Dieter said all four of the memorial's mourning benches have been sold, and they're coming closer to raising the $275,000 to complete the monument. $145,000 still is needed.

He added the list of honorary trustees that have signed on in support of the project continues to grow. Currently, the list boasts 27 noteworthy individuals including NBC football analyst Tony Dungy, NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and five Tuskegee Airmen.

“We feel very positive about the things that are developing,” Dieter said.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or kserafini@tribweb.com.

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