The City of Rocky Mount appears to be interested in having the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on the roof of an old railroad track-side loading dock along Falls Road on the northeastern side of downtown.
A document, which is posted on the municipality’s website, shows Candice Kirtz, the purchasing manager in the city Finance Department’s purchasing division, has requested a quote from vendors for a project titled, “Black Lives Matter Painting.”
The document was issued on Tuesday and gives 2 p.m. on Friday as the time for a quote to be provided by a vendor or vendors — and the document includes a snapshot of the structure and a map.
The address of the structure is listed in the 200 block of Falls Road. The structure is between the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd and the Rocky Mount Event Center.
Additionally, the document said the vendor will have to paint the roof of the dock with a black base coat and then paint the words “Black Lives Matter” in yellow.
The Telegram late Wednesday morning found out about the request for the quote and the image of the document also later appeared in a posting on Facebook.
The Telegram emailed a list of questions to a city spokesman seeking further information, but there was no response as of press time on Wednesday.
The questions sought answers as to what the purpose of this is and from what municipal account funds would have to be pulled to cover the cost.
The questions also included when such work would be started and completed.
City Councilman Lige Daughtridge told the Telegram he learned about the request for the quote late Wednesday morning from city residents.
“This was the first time that I was made aware of it — and I was caught by surprise,” Daughtridge said.
“I am stunned and disappointed that I have to find out via the public,” Daughtridge said. “Additionally, this is not the first time that I’ve discovered information, either from the public or on social media.”
Daughtridge was referring to a posting on May 27 on Facebook showing a printout of the history of the City of Rocky Mount’s write-offs for each year from 1999 to 2019.
That printout showed that the municipality took more than $24 million in bad debt on utilities off the books.
As for the request for the quote for painting “Black Lives Matter” on the roof of the dock downtown, Daughtridge said, “You would think that something of this magnitude would have to go before the City Council for input or approval.”
Asked whether he believes the council should have say in this before it is approved, Daughtridge said, “Yes.”
The Telegram asked Daughtridge whether he believes the municipality is getting involved in a political cause or endorsing a political group and whether that is what is driving his concern.
Daughtridge said he would not go that far.
“But I will say I am concerned because this is putting a bold statement on behalf of the 55,000 residents of Rocky Mount,” Daughtridge said.
“And that’s why I think the City Council — the entire City Council and the mayor — should have a say about what is going on surrounding this issue,” Daughtridge said. “And this is using taxpayer money that has not been, to my knowledge, placed in the budget.”
The words “Black Lives Matter” began appearing in cities nationwide, particularly after the District of Columbia mayor had the words painted in large yellow letters on a street near the White House.
Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.