After a three-hour workshop that aired many different perspectives, the Putnam County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening decided to begin the process of relocating the large Confederate statue that stands outside the County Courthouse in Palatka.
“After thinking about it for a month, are we gonna make everybody happy? No, we're not,” said Commission Chair Terry Turner. “We're not gonna make them happy if we leave it. We're not going to make them happy if we move it. We're not gonna make them happy if we put it on the ballot.”
Turner said if the statue was kept at the courthouse, he feels it would be too expensive to continue protecting it from constant protests.
“Every time we have a protest or a rally or whatever you want to call it, it costs the county $20,000 to $30,000,” Turner said. “So I know that the money is not supposed to come into an emotional issue, but sorry guys, I'm not built like that.”
The board also voted to create a citizens’ committee who will help decide where the monument will go. Each county commissioner will appoint two people for the committee, while Chair Turner will be able to appoint a third at-large citizen.
The vote was 4-1 among the five county commissioners, with Jeff Rawls as the lone dissenting voice.
“The public didn't get what they wanted,” Rawls said. “What I wanted was to put this to the public and let them vote whether or not they want to move it or not... I don't think we should be running away from something and be scared of anything.”
The commission discussed possible locations like Veteran’s Park in East Palatka, Westview Cemetery a few blocks away from the courthouse, and even simply relocating it to somewhere else on the courthouse property, rather than leaving it adjacent to the main entrance path.
The monument has be the focus of multiple protests and counter protests in recent months, and discussion on its relocation has spanned years.
It’s unclear whether the citizens’ committee will be meeting at the next Putnam County Commission workshop, which is slated for September 8.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.