A consensus of Pasquotank residents who recently weighed in on where the county’s Confederate monument should be relocated think Museum of the Albemarle would be a good site.
Museum and N.C. Department of Cultural Resource officials don’t think so, however.
County Manager Sparty Hammett told the county’s Special Projects Committee on Monday that he reached out to local museum officials and to N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Deputy Secretary Dr. Kevin Cherry and was told they had no interest in taking the monument.
“The Museum of the Albemarle is not an option,” Hammett said.
Hammett said eight of the 19 Pasquotank residents who sent in comments about where the monument should be relocated suggested a museum site, with five specifically saying it should be moved to Museum of the Albemarle. Other locations suggested by county citizens included the Episcopal Cemetery in the city, a historic graveyard and private property.
Another eight citizens urged the panel to keep the monument at the courthouse, where it has been since 1911.
But Special Projects Committee Chairman Cecil Perry said the no-move option is “null and void” because the Board of Commissioners already voted to move the statue.
“Our discussion will be based on moving the monument from where it is,” Perry said.
In his opening remarks to the committee that also includes fellow Commissioner Barry Overman and Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Dixon, Perry also suggested the museum was not an appropriate location because it would make the monument more visible.
“The reason why the monuments were built, and no one really wants to talk about it, ... were to intimidate African American people,” Perry said. “That was basically to show white supremacy. I lived during the Jim Crow era and it was horrible. We all need to learn how to live together for there is only one God, not two.”
Commissioners voted 4-3 in July to move the controversial monument from the county courthouse grounds, citing the public safety exception in a 2015 state law banning their removal without state approval. Commissioners also tasked the board’s Special Projects Committee to find a new site for the monument and to investigate the costs for moving it. County officials prefer moving the monument to private property by the end of the year.
But finding a location is proving difficult, Hammett told the Special Projects Committee.
“We did research those options,” he said, referring to the museum, cemetery and private property sites. “We have found that relocating the Confederate monument is not an easy task, and that is why a lot of jurisdictions have removed them and stored them.’’
Facing the difficulty of finding a location, Hammett presented the committee with four “strategies” to help the county move forward, one of which has the county asking the United Daughters of the Confederacy if the group would be interested in working jointly with the county to find a suitable relocation site.
The UDC is the likely owner of the monument since the organization paid for most of the monument when it was erected on the courthouse grounds in 1911 even though the county and city also paid for part of it.
With the Pasquotank UDC chapter no longer in existence, the county will likely try to work with the North Carolina division of the organization. The committee voted unanimously to have County Attorney Mike Cox send a letter to the state chapter of the UDC. The panel said the group will be given 14 days to respond about a possible location.
But the county is not confident that it will hear back from the UDC.
“I have attempted to reach out to them by email and they haven’t responded,” Hammett said. “I have sent multiple emails.’’
If the county does not hear from the UDC then the committee could decide to implement one of the other three strategies recommended by Hammett.
Those include soliciting plans from private citizens to relocate the monument to a private location; moving the statue to a museum, graveyard or other appropriate location outside Pasquotank County; or removing the statue from the courthouse grounds and storing it temporarily until a permanent location is found.
Hammett told the committee that storing the monument would mean the county having to pay twice to move it.
Hammett has sought cost estimates for moving the statue five miles from its current location. He received three preliminary estimates ranging from a low of $28,000 to a high of around $86,000. Several companies were not interested in the project because of the controversy surrounding moving Confederate monuments.
“If we go farther than five miles, that is going to increase the cost,” Hammett said. “The big part is not the transport cost, it’s actually moving the monument. The monument is actually six different pieces.”