And the estimated $2.4 million cost of the cemetery's construction is solely federally funded.
"We're not coming here with made-up minds," Keys told the few dozen attendees at a meeting of the umbrella group United Veterans of East Tennessee. But "If we don't go with this (site), you're going to miss your funding. It's already passed."
Many in the crowd were skeptical whether they could have any meaningful say in the selection now.
"Why would you not consult veterans groups from the very beginning?" asked Ken Irvine, commander of Knoxville's American Legion Post 2. "We are the constituents of that cemetery."
Keys said the current East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike is expected to reach its full capacity by next year. And the original plan to expand the cemetery across the road to Lakeshore Park was scrapped after federal officials deemed the expansion site unacceptable in November 2009.
Knoxville City Council members are set to vote tonight on a tentative agreement to buy the newly proposed cemetery site off Gov. John Sevier Highway for $1.4 million and swap it with the state for 17.2 acres at Lakeshore Park.
Some veterans worry about possible disturbances from weekly blasts at the gravel quarry, and that funeral processions to the former farmland site would have to unduly compete with traffic from the nearby Forks of the River Industrial Park.
Noise and seismic monitoring data collected in and around the quarry since March 2009 indicate that the blasting is well within state standards, said Helen Hennon of Quantum Environmental & Engineering Services, the firm that conducted the project's environmental assessment.
Hennon said she heard many of the same stories some veterans had from residents adjacent to the site, who claimed to have cracked home foundations from the blasting. She said the quarry has refined its operations within the past year, though.
Yet Hennon also said that the monitoring data cited in the environmental assessment were previously collected by a firm working under contract for the quarry owners. She said the assessment was due this month before any independent monitoring could be done.