Ron Werntz is a man on a mission. Werntz has taken it upon himself to raise donations to restore the Civil War monument outside of the Stephenson County Courthouse in Freeport. Werntz says when county officials made it clear there was no public funds in the budget for restoration, he started urging local residents and private companies to pitch in.
The monument was finished in 1869. Nature has taken its toll on the 70-foot structure. The facade is crumbling, but Werntz says it's even worse:
"It's decaying from inside, it's crumbling. The limestone is falling off because it's like an inside cancer. The restoration company is waiting. As soon as we get the money, they are going to fix this thing. I hope to have it done by this summer. We're coming up on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and this is embarrassing. Once again, the people, the private sector, we are going to stick together and get this done." -Freeport resident Ron Werntz
The cost to repair the monument is estimated around $83,000. The cost to replace the statue on the top of the monument is just under $60,000.
Stephenson County Board member Edward Mulligan says Werntz has done a "great job" raising public awareness and fund raising. Mulligan says the county is limited in how it can support the restoration:
"We are hopeful we can contribute in our next budget year, but we are very tight and have some large debt that needs to be taken care of. Private sector help on this project is greatly appreciated."-Edward Mulligan, Stephenson County Board
Werntz has created a certificate for each of the 3,000 names of Stephenson County Civil War veterans. He plans to sell the certificates as an "adopt-a-veteran" program to help with the cost. Werntz says he is also working to create a website to collect donations.