October 31, 2020 6:16:32 PM
Efforts to relocate the Confederate monument which has stood on the grounds of the Lowndes County courthouse to a site at Friendship Cemetery cleared its last procedural hurdle on Friday.
During its regular meeting, the board of directors for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the needed permit that will allow the county to proceed with the relocation.
"My thought is that we should move it as quickly as we can," Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Trip Hairston said after the MDAH board approved the permit unanimously and without discussion. "We voted to move it by a unanimous vote, so it's time to follow through."
County engineer Bob Calvert, who has been working with MDAH officials to develop a plan for moving the monument erected on the courthouse site in 1912 over the past month, said he expects the board to move quickly to authorize advertising for bids.
"We'll have to get the permit and look at it to see if there are provisions we have to follow, but once we've done that, we can follow the state law for bidding out the contracts," he said.
After bids for disassembly, transport and site preparation are awarded, the relocation will be done in stages, County Administrator Jay Fisher said.
"The first phase will be taking down the monument, then cleaning and storing it," Fisher said. "At that point, the contractor will have to look at what kind of footing the monument was placed on and a new footing will be poured at the site at Friendship Cemetery. When the footing is ready, the monument will be moved and reassembled."
The new site will be located at a section near the graves of Confederate soldiers. Fisher said an archaeologist from MDAH will be on site to ensure that no remains of bodies buried at or near the site are disturbed during the relocation.
Under state law, any contracts in excess of $50,000 must be awarded through the bid process. Fisher said it's possible the county might avoid the bid process if the contract is awarded to multiple bidders for the separate phases, something Calvert said is unlikely.
Columbus Marble Works relocated the Confederate monument on the University of Mississippi campus this summer and seems to be a logical choice for the job, Calvert said.
"I don't know of anyone else in Mississippi who's doing this kind of job," he said.
Calvert said no cost estimates have been developed for the project, but Hairston said it's likely the cost will be $100,000 or more, based on the removal of the monument at Ole Miss.
The Lowndes County monument is bigger than the one at Ole Miss and will be moved a greater distance at a site less accessible than that at Ole Miss.
"I can't imagine it would be any cheaper, let's put it that way," Hairston said.
Fisher said that while the board hasn't authorized funds, it's likely the money would come from the county's general fund.
Calvert estimated the project should take about six months to complete.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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