GOVERNMENTS are not necessarily in the business of wasting taxpayer money. Look no farther than Caroline County to see an example of a locality whose leaders respect the bottom line.
Caroline voted to relocate its Confederate monument from the courthouse lawn to Greenlawn Cemetery. The county got four estimates for removing it. The estimates ranged from $170,000 to $260,000.
That was too much, in the opinion of Kevin Wightman, the county’s building official.
So he brought together a team of county employees and volunteers. A boom truck was rented, and the total cost for moving the 24 pieces of the monument is estimated to be $25,000, which is as little as one-tenth of what outside companies were bidding.
Greenlawn, in which rest the bodies of many reinterred Confederate soldiers, is an appropriate place for a Civil War monument. The statue’s move there means it won’t be destroyed—but also won’t offend many residents and others as it did in its longtime location in front of the county courthouse.
This seems like a common-sense solution, but common sense and fiscal responsibility don’t always carry the day.
For an example, look a little farther south.
When the City of Richmond decided to take down its Confederate statuary on Monument Avenue earlier this year, Mayor Levar Stoney did not seek bids. He hired a firm to do it for $1.8 million.
Granted, taking down J.E.B. Stuart’s and Stonewall Jackson’s monuments was a somewhat more challenging job (A.P. Hill still stands, and the Robert E. Lee monument is on state property, with its disposition tied up in the courts). Also, Stoney said he signed off on a quick removal to protect public safety and property after protesters smashed windows and set fires in July.
Still, $1.8 million is 72 times greater than what Caroline is paying. You could have removed the Confederate statues from the great majority of the state’s courthouses for $1.8 million, if one removal cost $25,000.
The fact that there were no competing bids made the seven-figure sum hard for some Richmonders to swallow. It became even less digestible when it was learned that the shell company doing the work was created 10 days before Stoney’s removal order and is linked to a Stoney donor.
Good job, Caroline. Way to be responsible. You are an example that some much larger localities can and should emulate.
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