Commissioners vote leaves courthouse monument in place

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met on Monday to vote on and discuss multiple items on the agenda, in particular ones pertaining to emergency services and the allocation of funding for special projects. As promised at the previous meeting, the board also voted on the status of the Confederate monument standing in front of the historic courthouse.

After nearly an hour of public comments related to the Confederate monument, Board Chairman Darrell Frye said he believed it was time to take a vote related to the statue to make the board’s position clear.

Commissioner Hope Haywood asked county attorney Ben Morgan to discuss the state law on historical monuments. Morgan said, “In its plain language says that you are prohibited from removing that.” Morgan told Haywood there were pathways to removing statues, but in his opinion the law is clear that the commissioners do not have authority to move or remove any historical monuments.

Commissioner Maxton McDowell made a motion that the statue should “remain where it is and as it is.” Commissioner David Allen asked about the appropriateness of having a vote during the night’s meeting and was told the vote was in order.

During debate on McDowell’s motion, Haywood spoke of plans to establish a Randolph County Museum at the historic courthouse. “The grounds and the courthouse are becoming a museum,” said Haywood. She lamented that as she was speaking to people about the Confederate memorial that few knew about the other veterans’ memorial on the courthouse grounds. Haywood said she did not want the Confederate monument moved but said, “I think the time might come when we would want to consider making it less prominent.”

“We had to make a decision and state what our intentions are and how we felt about this issue,” said Chairman Darrell Frye on the impromptu vote. “This has gone on long enough. It’s been mentioned before and has gone on long enough and we needed to clarify where this board stood.”

“I’m afraid that this is not going to be the end,” said David Allen. “I am in favor of preserving the monument.”

“I am flabbergasted and fascinated,” said Commissioner Kenny Kidd. “We did receive a resolution today … I guess we’re not considering that. I’m surprised that you did not present this resolution to pass Ms. Haywood, I know you’ve been working hard on moving this,” said Kidd.

“Excuse me, excuse me, commissioner,” said Haywood. “I represent everyone in this county and anybody who calls me for a conversation gets one. That was low. That was not Christ-like.”

After that exchange, Frye called for a vote on the motion, which carried, 5-0.

Also on the agenda, the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of 10 Dodge Chargers and six Dodge Durangos for the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office through the NC Sheriffs’ Association Vehicle Procurement Program for $493,458.

The Sheriff’s Office did not have an estimate of when these vehicles might be ready to be put into operation.

“These vehicles are on the ground,” said Major Steven Nunn of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office. “We have them. The issue is the same as with the vehicles before. It’s the equipment and the equipment manufacturers.”

The board also began the process for reformatting the current Fire Protection County Service Districts to eliminate the tax rate cap on them. Under the current format, the districts have a $0.15 capped tax rate and several fire districts have notified a need to exceed that cap.

“This does not mean that the districts are completely and totally uncapped,” said Associate County Attorney Aimee Scotton. “What it means is that they have the same cap that applies to taxation in general in North Carolina. That is that all of the taxes taken together can not exceed $1.50 per $100 valuation. They just fall in with any other taxes instead of having a $0.15 tax rate.”

To begin the process, the board approved the reformatting of the Climax, Franklinville, Guil-Rand and Westside fire districts.

There will be a public hearing to abolish the fire districts, and after that, a vote will take place to reinstate new districts. The new districts will all be geographically the same without the $0.15 tax rate cap.

Along with the reformatted fire districts, the board also approved a new position within the Emergency Services department.

The fire plans examiner position will focus primarily on plan reviews and permitting in new construction projects which will free up the fire inspectors, who previously had to do this work as well, to focus on routine inspections and investigations.

“We have an employee who has been handling most of our new construction projects for the better part of three years now,” said Fire Marshal Erik Beard. “As it’s become more time consuming, we’ve seen the need for this. Our plan is to move that person into this role permanently and then we’d be recruiting for a new fire inspector.”

By Ryan Henkel