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Cost of monument removal released by city

After nearly half a year of requests by the Telegram, the City of Rocky Mount on Tuesday released documents about the since-removed Confederate monument.

The documents showed Greenville Marble & Granite submitted a bid of $225,000 to take down the monument from southeast of the U.S. 64 interchange with Benvenue Road and haul the parts of the structure to the grounds of the municipal wastewater treatment plant northeast of the city for storage.

The documents also showed Greenville Marble & Granite charged an additional fee of $56,250.

Interim city Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Director Jessie Nunery told the Telegram the reason for the $56,250 having been added on was because the municipality approved an additional one-time 25 percent fee to accelerate the work.

The documents show an agreement was reached on June 23, 2020, for Greenville Marble & Granite to do the work, with the project start date to be June 29, 2020.

The documents specified there was to be a turnaround time of five consecutive days to complete the project.

The documents called for the company to be paid a total of $281,250 — $140,625 up front and $140,625 at the time of the completion of the work.

The documents also said the city would be responsible for the removal of trees at the site prior to the start of the work.

Later, a one-time fee of $600 was approved to pay for a tarp to cover the parts of the monument, Nunery said.

The monument was installed in 1917 by Confederate veteran Robert Henry Ricks of Nash County in memory of his comrades on land owned by the then-Rocky Mount Mills.

In 1976, the monument site was annexed by the City of Rocky Mount. T.E. Ricks, representing the Robert Henry Ricks estate, asked the municipality to take over the maintenance of the area around the monument.

The then-City Council in 1976 agreed to maintain the monument site, which meant the municipality would mow the surrounding grass and keep the surrounding area clean, subject to the monument site being given to the city.

The monument became a focus of attention in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020, death of African American George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death prompted riots in cities nationwide and the removal of Confederate monuments in the South by either government officials or protesters.

On May 31, 2020, the Confederate monument in Rocky Mount was the scene of a peaceful protest to call attention to Floyd’s death.

The City Council voted 6-1 during a council budget work session on June 2, 2020, to move the monument and formalized the action of that vote with a 6-1 vote at the June 8, 2020, council meeting. Councilman W.B. Bullock cast the lone dissenting votes.

The text supporting the June 8, 2020, vote called for putting the monument in a safe place, pending further action by the council.

The council without dissent approved a resolution against racial injustice and declaring Black lives matter. However, there were complaints locally via social media after a news release from Nunery on June 25, 2020, saying the cost to take the monument down would exceed $281,000.

City documents said the monument had been a target of vandalism in the past. That included the monument’s two rear statues having been pulled from their pedestals and found in pieces on the ground, as well as damage to the head of the front left statue, which had been removed from the monument and never was located.

The documents also referred to a downtown business having been vandalized and a bomb threat having been made to the state Department of Revenue service center off Country Club Road in the northwestern part of the city. The documents did not name the business, but the Telegram quoted police as saying Wholesale Paint Center off North Church Street on June 1, 2020, reported having sustained damage to its windows. The bomb threat to the state service center occurred the next day.

The documents also noted that unnamed members of the council became aware of credible threats to destroy the monument as a response to acts of racial injustice.

The council on Jan. 11 voted to release the parts of the monument to the care and custody of the Robert Henry Ricks Camp 75 of the state Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Bethel Heroes 636 state division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for preservation at a location in Nash County.

The Telegram as far back as March 11 and citing the state public records law had been emailing the city asking for documents about the final cost of the removal of the monument.

Nash UNC expands access to life-saving COVID treatment

A recent executive order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper is designed to expand access to a COVID treatment that already is available at Nash UNC Health Care.

Cooper signed Executive Order 232 last week to make it easier for North Carolinians to access treatment for COVID-19. The order authorizes and directs State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson to issue a statewide standing order to expand access to monoclonal antibody treatment, which if taken early can decrease the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.

The order will be in effect through Nov. 30.

“Expanding access to monoclonal antibody therapy will help more patients across the state get this highly effective COVID-19 treatment,” Cooper said. “In addition to getting more people vaccinated, we need to do all we can to save the lives of people who become infected.”

Nash UNC Health Care has been offering the outpatient treatment since November 2020 but is working to expand the number of patients who can receive the treatment in the wake of the recent surge in cases. The hospital has set up a special outpatient COVID Treatment Center to allow patients to take the monoclonal antibody infusion in privacy and without endangering other patients.

The treatment offered at Nash UNC Health Care consists of an IV infusion of the Regeneron COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Treatment. The infusion includes man-made proteins designed to act like human antibodies in the immune system to fight off the COVID virus and slow down its replication. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of mAb as a treatment for COVID.

The IV takes about 30 minutes to enter the body. Patients then are required to wait about an hour so medical professionals can monitor for possible allergic reactions or side effects.

“We have now treated more than 350 patients with this valued therapy, which reduces severity of COVID-19 symptoms,” said Dr. Crystal Hayden, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Nash UNC Health Care. “We hope to continue to educate the community on how this outpatient treatment can reduce their COVID symptoms and likelihood of needing hospitalization.”

Across the UNC Health system, just 2.7 percent of patients who received the treatment have visited the Emergency Department after their treatment and only 2.4 percent were admitted to a hospital for COVID following treatment, Hayden said.

Unlike the vaccine, which is designed to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID, monoclonal antibody treatment is offered only once a patient tests positive for the virus, or in some cases as a preemptive measure for high-risk patients who have been exposed to COVID.

However, the patient must have had symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days or less or have been exposed to COVID-19 for the treatment to be effective. If taken early, the treatment can reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. If patients wait until they are experiencing severe symptoms, it is too late for the treatment in most cases.

Residents do not need to visit a doctor to get a referral for the treatment, though they may want to contact their physician to see if the treatment is right for them. Instead, residents can call the UNC self-referral hotline at 888-850-2684. A staff member will go through the screening process with them to see if they qualify for treatment under the current protocols.

The medication used in the treatment is free to patients under current federal government guidelines. But there is a cost from the medical facility for administering the treatment. At Nash UNC Health Care, that cost can run as high as $510 for uninsured patients. However, many insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, cover the cost entirely.

There are also several federal and local plans that often cover or significantly reduce the cost for many patients who may be underinsured. A financial counselor at Nash UNC will work with patients to determine what funding is available to cover the cost for patients who need the treatment.

“Our goal is to make this treatment as accessible as possible,” said Neveen Morales, director of revenue cycle for Nash UNC Health Care. “We don’t want financial considerations to stand in the way of anyone who needs treatment.”

For more information about monoclonal antibody treatment or for treatment options offered at other locations in the state, call the Combat COVID Monoclonal Antibodies Call Center at 1-877-332-6585 (English) or 1-877-366-0310 (Spanish).

Ceremonies to mark 20th anniversary of 9/11

The City of Rocky Mount at 10 a.m. on Friday will have a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which is the following day.

The plan is for the gathering to be at the flagpole just outside City Hall and broadcast live on the municipality’s Facebook page, interim city Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Director Jessie Nunery said in a news release.

Firefighters and police officers will honor the lives lost, and the fire department honor guard and the police department trumpeter will take part in the ceremony, Nunery said.

Additionally, Mayor Sandy Roberson, Fire Chief Corey Mercer and Police Chief Robert Hassell will give remarks, Nunery said.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a hijacked commercial jet crashed into the north tower of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Less than 20 minutes later, a second commercial jet crashed into the south tower, eventually causing each of the structures to collapse.

The collapses caused neighboring structures to catch fire and also caused one of the structures, 7 World Trade Center, to eventually collapse.

A third hijacked commercial jet crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth commercial jet crashed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers charged the cockpit, causing the hijackers of that plane to abort their mission and crash the plane into the ground.

The militant Islamist group al-Qaida, which was founded by Osama bin Laden, carried out the attacks on the U.S., which killed nearly 3,000 people. In May 2011, bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in a raid of a compound in Pakistan.

“It is important for us to honor the lives of our nation’s heroes — and I invite our community to take a few moments on Sept. 11 to reflect on the bravery and humanity shown by public service workers and citizens in the aftermath of the horrific attack,” City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said in prepared remarks.

Nash County Community College at 10 a.m. on Friday also will be the scene of a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Maj. Miste Strickland of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office will be the guest speaker at NCC’s First Responder Memorial. The ceremony will feature a special guest K-9 to honor those involved in searches and rescues.

The ceremony will also include a presentation of the colors by NCC Basic Law Enforcement Training cadets and the singing of the national anthem by Heather Perry, who is an assistant registrar at NCC.

Also locally, Jim Taylor, who is the first vice commander of Post 58 of the American Legion, said plans call for the post to have a flag-raising ceremony shortly before noon on Saturday at Ennis Park off N.C. 43 at Red Oak.

Taylor also said that his chaplain will be giving a prayer and that “Taps” will be played.

Wesleyan student died of natural causes

An N.C. Wesleyan football player was laid to rest Monday and the cause of his death was released Tuesday.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office informed the Rocky Mount Police Department that the death was ruled as being due to natural causes, Jessie Nunery, interim director of communications, marketing and public relations, said late Tuesday in a news release.

“The medical examiner stated Clemmons’ death was a result of an underlying medical condition,” Nunery said in the news release. “There was no foul play or illegal substances involved with Clemmons’ death.”

Clemmons, a psychology major from Supply, N.C., was found dead in his dorm room on the morning of Sept. 2 at N.C. Wesleyan College. At the time, the cause of death was not released pending an investigation by a medical examiner.

Clemmons reportedly was an offensive lineman on the West Brunswick High School football team before he attended Wesleyan College and joined the football team there.

According to his obituary, Clemmons was awarded an academic scholarship to attend N.C. Wesleyan where he was a member of the sophomore class at the time of his death. He was on the dean’s list at the college and was soon to be inducted into the Student Leadership Society.

Funeral services for Clemmons were held Monday at Brunswick Community College in Supply. Members of the West Brunswick High School football team and 2020-21 N.C. Wesleyan football team served as honorary pall bearers at the service.

Memories and expressions of sympathy for the Clemmons family may be shared at www.shallottefunerals.com.