Protesters shout "Harry must go" in the direction of the county supervisors meeting room on Monday outside the Lowndes County Courthouse in Columbus. Protesters have been gathering during every regular supervisors' meeting since County Supervisor Harry Sanders' racist remarks were published on June 16. Photo by: Claire Hassler/Dispatch Staff
Jermaine Shanklin shouts into a megaphone on Monday during a county supervisors meeting outside the Lowndes County Courthouse in Columbus.
Photo by: Claire Hassler/Dispatch Staff
Rev. Ron Houston thanks other community faith leaders for uniting to demand County Supervisor Harry Sanders' resignation on Monday outside the Lowndes County Courthouse in Columbus. Houston spoke during the meeting while others stood behind him to show support.
Photo by: Claire Hassler/Dispatch Staff
Lowndes County Supervisors pray before starting their meeting on Monday at the Lowndes County Courthouse in Columbus. District 5 County Supervisor Leroy Brooks stands in the corner of the room instead of at the table as an act of protest against District 1 County Supervisor Harry Sanders and the racist remarks he made about African Americans on June 15.
Photo by: Claire Hassler/Dispatch Staff
August 4, 2020 10:20:35 AM
Lowndes County supervisors are weighing their options on how and where to relocate the Confederate monument -- which now stands in front of the county courthouse -- as research into the methods and cost of the relocation is underway.
The discussion came roughly two weeks after Columbus City Council offered the county an option between two parcels of land at city-owned Friendship Cemetery -- where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried -- as the new site for the monument's display.
The first proposed site, which lies near Confederate soldiers' graves, can prove challenging for cranes and 18-wheeler trucks to access during the move, Columbus Marble Works owner Key Blair previously told The Dispatch. The second site, which is located near the Tombigbee River toward the west of the cemetery, is easier to navigate. Mayor Robert Smith previously said the city is willing to yield the ownership of both parcels to the county to aid the relocation.
Supervisors have yet to determine between the sites, but some have favored the first site over the other despite difficulties for monument movers.
District 2 Supervisor Trip Hairston told The Dispatch the site is located next to Confederate graves, which he thinks is a more appropriate location.
"It's over there by what's already the Confederate memorial section. ... Personally I like that better," he said. "If you are going there to learn history, it's appropriate that's where it will be."
Referring to concerns about the hardship to move the monument to the location, Hairston said he thinks the transportation doesn't require 18-wheelers, since the monument has to be broken down and reassembled anyway.
"You can't move it in one big chunk because it's too heavy," he said. "If we are going to have it broken into pieces, why don't we just move the pieces on a smaller vehicle?"
District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders said during the meeting he also favors the same site, since it is more visible.
"The first location is a heck lot better location than the second one. The second one is all the way back in the back of the thing and nobody can even see it," he said.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks told The Dispatch he does not have a preferred site. All he wants, he said, is to see the monument moved.
County Engineer Bob Calvert told The Dispatch that detailed moving plans are contingent upon supervisors' selection of the final site, but he has done some preliminary research on the relocation.
The monument weighs 70 tons, and the foundation underneath weighs another 30 tons, Calvert told The Dispatch. Instead of moving the original foundation along with the monument, he said, directly pouring new concrete at the new site would be more "satisfactory" and provide more stable standing for the monument.
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith said the original foundation can be used as base for something else in the future.
"Having a base that's already there probably gives the county an opportunity to reduce cost to ... replace that statue with something that's more central to the public," he said.
If the county decides to pour a new foundation, that alone would cost $25,000 to $30,000, and the monument relocation can cost more than that, Calvert said during Monday's meeting.
Hairston agreed with Calvert's recommendation. But, Hairston said, it is unclear if leaving the foundation behind is allowed under the state law. Government officials are not allowed to "alter" a war monument, he said, and leaving a part behind or displaying parts of the monument at the cemetery due to its height may be against state law.
Calvert said he and County Attorney Tim Hudson will reach out to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) for clarification on what the county is allowed to do with the monument. MDAH has not returned The Dispatch's inquiry on its interpretation over the matter.
Supervisors also approved Monday an additional "pandemic pay" of $50 per day for poll workers and the county's five election commissioners on Election Days between July 1 and Dec. 31, as authorized by state House Bill 824, which took effect July 1. Under the bill, election commissioners are paid $150 per day on primary, runoff, general and special election days and are entitled to receive the $50 in addition.
In Lowndes County, there will be two elections happening during that period -- the special election for the state House District 37 seat and the Nov. 3 general election.
District 4 Election Commissioner Sherry Guyton said Monday she is planning on hiring more poll workers, some of whom will sanitize polling areas during the pandemic.
The additional cost to the county will likely be reimbursed by the state distribution of the $1.25 billion of CARES Act fund, which aims to help cover COVID-19-related expenses, said County Administrator Ralph Billingsley. From Monday to Oct. 15, counties are allowed to submit their invoices to the state for reimbursement, he said.
Church leaders ask for Sanders' resignation
More than a month after Sanders commented to The Dispatch on June 15 that Black Americans have remained "dependent" since slavery ended, calls for him to step down entirely from the board are ongoing.
Nathaniel Ron Houston, president of the Northeast Mississippi Baptist State Convention, urged Sanders to resign immediately during the Monday meeting. He was accompanied by several local church leaders, including Bishop Scott Volland of The Bridge and Pastor Marcus Wilson of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
"Though your comments were made more than a month ago, they remain fresh in our minds and on our conscience to remind all of us that people like you, who are allowed to remain in position of power and leadership, ultimately greatly hinder and compromise our growth and our progress of the community," Houston said.
"We hope that our stand will inspire other than the faith community to take a stand against racism in any form, not just in words, but in deeds," he said during a press conference after the meeting. "His comments are reckless and wrong. He should resign now."
Since his remarks, Sanders has stepped down as the board president but remains on the board, despite more than 150 members of the local business community, including representatives from the Golden Triangle Development LINK, asking for his resignation. Educators, church leaders and business owners have protested against him, and the board of supervisors passed a resolution June 30 calling for him to resign from the board.
Sanders could not be reached for comments after the meeting.
Dispatch Reporter/Photographer Claire Hassler contributed to the report.
Yue Stella Yu is the local government reporter for The Dispatch. Reach her at 662-328-2424 (ext 106) or follow her on Twitter @StellaYu_Mizzou
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