Board picks new statue location but adds stipulations
It’s off to Veterans Memorial Park for the controversial Confederate monumentcurrently at the Putnam County Courthouse – but only if $200,000 can be raised locally in 90 days.
The Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of relocating the statue Tuesday evening after a nearly-four-hour workshop. The guidelines implemented Tuesday stipulate residents who want the monument moved from the courthouse sidewalk must raise money within the county in three months.
Although the relocation may cost more than $200,000, board Chairman Terry Turner said by raising that amount, it would show commitment to the relocation cause. No money can be donated from outside the county and the board will not pay to move the monument.
Commissioners Jeff Rawls and Larry Harvey voted against the motion made by Commissioner Buddy Goddard to relocate the statue to Veterans Memorial Park in East Palatka.
“I voted and gave my word, at one point, to vote to move this statue,” Turner said.
However, if funds are not raised, the statue will stay at the Putnam County Courthouse.
Even though the board made the decision to move the monument in August and heard relocation recommendations from the county’s Statue Relocation Selection Committee, residents were invited Tuesday to again publicly air their opinions on the issue.
More than 40 people attended Tuesday’s workshop, which focused only on the statue issue. One group of people waved signs that read, “Jim Crow must go,” and a second group displayed signs reading, “make a decision” or “leave it alone.”
Constant comments, boos or claps were heard throughout the workshop, and the board had to demand silence from the audience who reacted to their every discussion.
Rawls, who in August voted against moving the statue, was in favor of keeping the monument at the courthouse. He wanted to move the sidewalk to not center around the Confederate statue and erect a second monument to Robert Jenkins Jr., an Interlachen man who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his service and giving his life in the Vietnam War. The motion did not pass.
The selection committee originally chose Melrose Heritage Park as a viable relocation option, but Harvey visited Melrose and said the Historic Melrose Board of Directors did not want the monument at the park.
“Their sentiment was very strong. They want to be taken off the list of consideration,” Harvey said. “Melrose does not want to have a Confederate monument moved out there. Even some of the supporters of the monument were supporting it but they didn’t want it in their community.”
The board agreed no decision would make everyone in the community happy but wanted Tuesday to come to a resolution after five months of conversation surrounding the statue.
“The motion basically says that the opposing side has 90 days to come up with a minimum of $200,000 that’s supposed to be raised within the county,” Turner said. “If they come up with it, it moves to East Palatka to Veterans Park. …We’ll come back at that time and we’ll get engineering done and we’ll get estimates done and everything else.”
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