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Isle of Wight mum on monument proposal

Isle of Wight received a single proposal during the 30-day window for museums and organizations to express interest in taking the county’s Confederate monument.

But county officials won’t say who it is — at least, not yet.

The Smithfield Times requested a copy of the proposal last Friday and received a response Monday from Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson, saying that after checking with the county’s procurement office, it was “inadvisable to release the proposal” until the Board of Supervisors discusses it.

Isle of Wight’s supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 18 to relocate the monument, which has stood outside the county’s government complex for the past 115 years, but didn’t specify where its new home would be or when it would move there. Now, the matter is on the agenda again for this Thursday’s meeting.

The Feb. 18 vote came five months after a Sept. 3, 2020, public hearing on the matter, which drew a nearly even split of speakers for and against removal, and on the heels of a Feb. 9 vote by Windsor’s Town Council rejecting a proposal to move it to the town’s cemetery.

Moving the monument to Windsor’s cemetery had been the No. 1 recommendation of an eight-member task force the county had formed last October for the purpose of evaluating potential relocation sites. The group’s second choice had been moving the statue to the village of Walters on land currently owned by task force member Volpe Boykin, who said he’d be willing to grant an easement to any non-governmental organization willing to maintain the monument in perpetuity.

Changes to state law, which took effect July 1 last year, now permit localities to remove, relocate, cover or contextualize any Confederate monuments they own. Since that date, a number of Hampton Roads localities have opted to remove them from public parks, thoroughfares and courthouse grounds.

County residents who had lobbied for the monument’s removal from county grounds, among them local NAACP Chapter President Valerie Butler, argue it glorifies the Confederacy and white supremacy. Others who had lobbied for it to remain where it stands are of the opinion that removing it would be tantamount to erasing history.