LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) – From directional signs along Highway 28 West to welcome signs entering the post office and every letterhead, flyer and promotional material, hundreds of documents and signage are to be changed as recommended by the Congressional Committee from Fort Polk to Fort Johnson. The post is said to be named after Army Sergeant William Henry Johnson who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in World War I.
At Ft. Polk alone, the name change process will cost $1.3 million, with about $21 million for the nine military positions nationwide. These estimates come from the naming commission’s final report released on Tuesday.
“Fort Polk is big,” said Leesville Mayor Rick Allen, who is also acting president of the Louisiana Armed Forces Alliance. “Anytime you go and look at anything that’s spread over 50% of our parish that says Fort Polk needs to be changed, there will be missed signs somewhere.”
Allen said he’s concerned the price isn’t an adequate estimate of the cost of the name change process, and he doesn’t anticipate it will cover the replacement of all signs and documents.
“Did they count everything in every office building in Fort Polk? Allen asked. “I don’t think it’s possible […] The DOD must not only commit to changing all of this, but if there is anything left, they are prepared to come back and deal with it.
The mayor fears that the burden of replacing the unchanged items will fall on Fort. Garrison Polk, which has a fixed budget each year.
“We’re going to be watching this very closely, and we’re going to hold Congress accountable for these elements and not the garrison,” Allen explained.
The name change was not well received by all within the community. Although the renaming process was meant to be a collaborative effort between local stakeholders and the naming commission, Allen said the community felt they ultimately didn’t have much say.
“It’s something that was done in Washington, and we as a community, they tried to make us feel like we had input, but at the end of the day, I have to say, we didn’t have much. of input on this at all,” Allen explained. “These are the cards that were dealt to us. And now, how can we, as a community, reduce the tension and move forward? And that’s what we’re going to focus on here in the city and in Fort Polk.
Mayor Allen also said he was unsure who would oversee the renaming process at the post or if anyone would be in charge of bidding contractors to carry out the replacement efforts.
The secretary of defense is expected to fully implement the naming commission’s plans to rename all nine positions by early 2024.
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