By Beth Lawrence
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has taken the first steps to make previously approved changes to the Confederate memorial on the steps of the historic courthouse.
The monument to the county’s Confederate soldiers became a flashpoint this summer between those wishing to see the statue removed from its place of prominence while citing racism and oppression, and those who say it represents their heritage.
Commissioners voted 4-1 on Aug. 4 to leave the statue in place and alter the base, covering the Confederate flag and adding information about the Civil War, with former Commissioner Ron Mau, who favored removing the statue, voting against the proposal.
Last week the county covered the base of the statue with painted plywood.
“How we were going to accomplish that was a little bit more complex than we originally thought,” Board Chair Brian McMahan said Friday. “It’s not as simple as you just go up there and bolt a plaque on it.”
In September, the board discussed materials for the proposed plaques and wording. The consensus among commissioners was to continue the discussion after more research, and Commissioners Gayle Woody and McMahan would compose wording to be inscribed on the plaques.
The project, McMahan said, will take some time to complete and could be costly, running upwards of $25,000. The good news is the county may not have to pay the entire amount. Grant funds are available.
“We want to apply for these grant funds that are made available through the state to deal with these issues,” he said. “So in the meantime while we’re waiting to process that grant, while we’re waiting to finalize the language, continuing to research options, I indicated to the manager, ‘Go ahead and let’s cover it with some kind of plywood or temporary structure.’”
McMahan said his concern was reopening the steps of the library to the public for exercise and enjoyment.
McMahan did not say whether the move was in response to a July 27 town of Sylva request to cover the base until something more permanent could be done.
Woody and McMahan have not met to plan new wording for the base. He believes the board, which now includes two new members, could revisit the issue within the next couple of months.