The citizen-led Statue Relocation Committee met in Palatka for the first time Friday to discuss potential places to relocate the large Confederate statue standing outside of the Putnam County Courthouse.
The Putnam County Board of Commissioners created the 11-member committee to bring them recommendations on where they could potentially relocate the statue, although they agreed they wouldn’t do so unless the move was privately funded.
After a few votes, the committee decided that the recommendations they brought before the County Commission had to be within Putnam County limits, and must be on county-owned land.
Before discussing potential locations, one of the committee members, David Wade, challenged LaToya Robinson’s appointment to the committee, saying she was compromising the committee by “being the mother of one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Robinson is the mother of Tevel Adams, one of the local activists who held peaceful protests against the current location of the Confederate monument.
“This group here, I feel like, would be tainted by any type of decision making process that she has and her participation in this group,” Wade said.
Wade said unless a “more deserving or better qualified person” were to replace Robinson, he would “render this meeting moot,” and push it back to the Putnam County Commissioners to discuss again.
His motion didn’t lead to any action by the committee, since committee members can’t kick other members out. All of the members were selected by the Putnam County Commissioners.
“I see no jurisdiction to be able to do that,” said Jim Troiano, the Executive Director of Putnam County’s Planning and Development Services Department, who is serving as the committee chair and facilitator.
As the group entered into discussion, they brought up several potential locations to relocate the statue, such as Veterans Memorial Park, the John Theobold Sports Complex, Melrose Heritage Park, and the parking lot to the left of the Putnam County Courthouse.
Another suggestion was to place it next to the Putnam County Government Complex.
“It certainly would be patrolled and would be visible, and I think it would be desirable,” Wade said.
However, some members said that could create new issues, since people vote at the complex.
“I know that part of the contention of the courthouse has been the fact that it is the halls of justice for Putnam County, but just as a point of reminder, our Supervisor of Elections is [at the Government Complex,” said committee member Joseph Wells.
“I think it would compliment it,” he said.
At the beginning of the meeting, there was a vote to have one of the recommendations be to leave it where it currently stands, with some additional context added to it.
The committee doesn’t have a deadline to complete their recommendations, but Wade said he felt they should make a final decision at Friday’s meeting.
“I think that we can sit here and beat this thing to death and come up with hundreds of locations,” Wade said.
But many of the committee members disagreed, saying they needed more time to research other potential locations and talk with community members.
“I didn't feel like we would come up with the final decision today anyway, but I am appreciative of all of the input that we brought to the table today,” said committee member Cynthia Asia. “And I agree that I would like to go ahead and begin to get a feel within the community, and then come back. And I think that maybe one, maybe two more sessions, and I think we would be able to give our lists to the Board of County Commissioners.”
The committee will meet again on October 15.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.