While the removal of the Confederate monument from the Battle Park area has been emotionally evocative, some area residents also have been concerned about the financial and legal ramifications of removing the landmark.
The City of Rocky Mount announced that the removal of the monument will cost $281,250. That price tag largely is due to the City Council’s desire to remove it quickly as it faced pressure from some people and groups who apparently were threatening harm to the monument.
There was a bidding process, which was open about two-and-half days. The bid request posted on the city’s website was for the removal and relocation of a 40-foot granite structure weighing 165 tons. That bid process opened on June 16 and closed at 2 p.m. on June 18.
Jesse Nunery, a spokesman for the city, said that bids were not required for the project.
“According to city attorney Jep Rose, the contract for the removal of the monument is a service contract,” he said. “Service contracts are not covered by the competitive bidding laws. Construction and repair contracts exceeding $500,000 are covered by the competitive bidding laws. The city did solicit bids for the monument removal even though (it was) not required by law to do so.”
Two companies posted bids and one of those removed its bid. But the final cost for the removal was $56,250 more than the bid amount because of the city’s desire for haste.
“Legacy Memorials proposed a quote for $185,000 on June 18. Also, on June 18, Greenville Marble & Granite proposed a quote for $225,000. Legacy Memorials sent a request to the city of Rocky Mount to remove their bid on June 19. The final amount of the removal, $281,250, is a result of Greenville Marble & Granite’s agreement to complete the work at a date earlier than the company proposed,” Nunery said in an email response.
Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson said he does feel that the cost was excessive but that the City Council decided it was in the best interest of the monument to move it quickly, even at a higher cost.
“A more cost-effective approach would have been to put a tarp around it for now and only have to move it once,” Roberson said. “But the City Council felt that the protection of the monument required that it be removed quickly.”
Roberson said there had been some past discussion about moving the monument to nearby Stonewall Manor, but that plan fell through.
“The group that maintains Stonewall Manor said they preferred to maintain the property as a period house, and they declined accepting the monument,” Roberson said.
The cost also was higher because monument removal is popular now, Roberson said.
“I do know that there are a lot of emotional responses at this time and many monuments are being removed, some by people that don’t even live in the area where those monuments are displayed. This has caused a scarcity of providers of monument removal and has driven the cost up,” Roberson said.
Despite the apparent haste by the council, Roberson said the issue had been under discussion for some time, even before he was elected mayor.
“A lot more research and effort has gone into this over a lot longer period of time than most people realize,” Roberson said.
Other concerns have been raised about the deed that originally was attached to the monument.
The deed shows that Rocky Mount Mills donated the property on which the monument stood to the City of Rocky Mount on Nov. 8, 1976. But a provision of the deed states: “This conveyance is made only so long as the real estate hereinafter described is used by the grantee as a site for a monument to the soldiers of the Confederate States of America and ... when said real estate ceases to be used for such a monument, then at that time shall automatically by operation of law be revested in grantor.”
In response to a request from the Telegram, the city sent out a response confirming this.
“According to city attorney Jep Rose, once the Confederate monument is removed, the property will revert to its former owner, Rocky Mount Mills, the yarn manufacturing company that deeded the property to the city in 1976. The deed described the property as ‘one square acre,’” the statement said.
However, it seems that reversion will not take place.
In a letter to the editor published on June 9 in the Telegram, John M. Mebane Jr., the last president of Rocky Mount Mills, said there are no plans to reclaim the property.
“Some concern has been expressed on social media about reversion rights for the plot of land if the monument is removed. Residents should rest assured if any reversion rights were put into play, as the last president of Rocky Mount Mills, I can say the reversion would be rejected or if necessary, any property in question would be deeded back to the City of Rocky Mount to be included with Battle Park,” Mebane said.
Mebane said he looks forward to seeing what will be accomplished in Battle Park.
“In 1974, Rocky Mount Mills donated Battle Park, one of its most valuable assets, to the City of Rocky Mount to be used as a public park for all the citizens of the Twin County area. That desire remains in place and I am pleased the city is developing plans to further enhance the Battle Park experience,” Mebane said. “Rocky Mount and the Twin Counties are on the cusp of an era of success and prosperity that hasn’t been evident in quite a number of years. May we all unite together to make the most of these times for all people.”
Rocky Mount Mills currently is owned by Capitol Broadcasting Co. Evan Covington Chavez, real estate development manager for Rocky Mount Mills & Capitol Broadcasting Company, said the current owners of the Mills will not interfere with Mebane’s decision.
“John Mebane is authorized to speak on behalf of the entity Rocky Mount Mills, a corporation owned by the Battle Family that was dissolved in 2006 and that is registered with the Secretary of State. As such, the current owner of Rocky Mount Mills (Capitol Broadcasting Co.) is not the entity that deeded the Battle Park property to the city and therefore does not have authority to speak about that property,” Chavez said.