Menifee street signs may soon be slated to honor highly decorated military veterans

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The Menifee City Council approved a proposal to establish a veteran street naming policy that would name city streets after highly decorated posthumous military veterans, during a discussion at the Oct. 7 regular city council meeting.

The idea presented by Chris Gehrki, a management analyst and 20-year Marine veteran, would with the council’s approval, name new city streets after members of the U.S. Armed Forces that displayed exemplary service in combat and won one of the three highest military honors presented to servicemen in the nation, including the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star and the Military Service Cross.

Gehrki said the military service street naming policy would complement the city’s many other projects honoring residents, past and present, with banners and special events. The presentation was only for discussion at the meeting, but after learning of the program that Gehrki said no other city has, the council voted 5-0 and referred it to city staff to come up with a program if it was approved by the Riverside County Geographic Information Services and met all the street sign regulations.

Along with the council’s recommendation, the council in the round table discussion gave more ideas of how and where the street name signs should be displayed.

The city’s current street naming procedures review consistency between developer and public needs, legal parameters and street naming conventions. All street name proposals and changes are sent to the county GIS to verify with emergency services that there are no similar sounding names within a 10-mile radius. Street name proposals must also meet certain naming conventions such as not having more than 14 letters in the name or have difficult pronunciation.

City staff earlier researched policies and programs for naming city streets after military veterans, and although other cities have streets named after veterans with exemplary service, most are approved on a case-by-case basis and not under a formal policy.

The staff report said that if the city council were to implement a policy for naming city streets after veterans, the following criteria could be considered: relationship to the city of Menifee and any supporting documentation the nominee resided within the Menifee city limits since its incorporation in 2008 or the Menifee area when farming activity began in the mid-1800s.

The approval of an application might give consideration for a minimum length of time the veteran served and be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the new Space Force.

It would require the verification of honorable service with applicants submitting proof of honorable service via the service members DD214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Service.

The named veteran’s meritorious achievement would have earned him one of three medals: The Silver Star, the third highest Military Honor; the Military Service Cross, second highest military honor, or the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor.

The staff suggested the requests should only be honored for veterans posthumously.

The staff said a $480 application fee might be required, which would come from the city gas taxes associated with the production or maintenance of signs budget or from the applicant or subdivision developer.

The council also was pleased to hear Menifee resident Dane Hitchcock had submitted a proposal to the Board of Geographic Names to name a 2 mile-long ridge of hills located south of McCall Boulevard and east of Interstate 215 as “Menifee Hills” and asked the council to adopt a resolution authorizing the city manager to officially name a 2 mile-long ridge of hills within the city limits as “Menifee Hills.”

The area is currently referred to by local residents as “Menifee Cross Hill” and “Menifee Mountain Trail.” The area is approximately 2 miles wide with an elevation of 2,141 feet and is located south of McCall Boulevard and east of I-215. The area encompasses 35 parcels under private ownership. On the east side of the ridge, there is a subdivision named Menifee Hills that was built in 2016.

In addition to the city of Menifee, this proposal was sent to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names and federally recognized local tribes for input and comments.

The staff learned due to the current wildfire conditions, the California Advisory Committee will not be able to review this proposal until the fire season ends as several committee members are Cal Fire employees.

The staff said there has been no response received from the board of supervisors or any local tribes. The city staff also reached out to the Menifee Historical Society for input and review of the proposal who indicated their support of the proposed name.

The staff said the city is not obligated to put up new signs or immediately update maps. The BGN does not have any authority other than to standardize geographic place names for official Federal use. The name, approved by the BGN, will not automatically show up on Google Maps, however the Google Maps team does import official BGN updates on an irregular basis, according to the report.

The council favored the name, saying it would give Menifee more name recognition when placed on future maps. They approved the new name, and the issue placed on the consent calendar.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.