With a federal court challenge behind them, the Lakeland City Commission today directed City Manager Tony Delgado to proceed with plans to move a 109-year-old Confederate monument from the center of Munn Park downtown to its new home, a gentle slope overlooking Veterans Park and Lake Beulah.
Delgado said after the meeting that next steps include preparing Munn Park for the move. City crews will need to temporarily remove parts of the irrigation system and some of the roses surrounding the monument, he said.
In addition, a concrete pad will be placed on the spot at Veterans Park where the monument will be placed. That location, currently marked with five wooden stakes, is situated at a high spot near the RP Funding Center parking lot midway between the Polk County Law Enforcement Memorial and Lemon Street.
The site is surrounded by tall pines. Two trees removed in recent months provide a line of site to the monument from Lake Beulah Drive and will also make room for the heavy equipment that will move the 27-foot-tall monument. (View a large version of the locator map.)
Delgado said the city’s site preparation could be completed by next week, but it might take longer to get on the schedule of Energy Services and Products Corp., the Tampa company chosen for the estimated $150,000 job of moving the monument.
Once Energy Services begins its work, the move should be completed within four days, Delgado said.
Unlike other cities where local governments have removed Confederate monuments and statues with no notice at night, Lakeland plans to release the move schedule in advance, Delgado said.
The issue of whether to proceed with the move was raised near the end of today’s City Commission meeting by Commissioner Justin Troller.
Declaring that the city has allowed enough time for legal challenges, Troller said, “I think we continue moving forward to put this issue behind us.” Work should halt only if a judge orders it, Troller said.
Both Mayor Bill Mutz and Commissioner Phillip Walker agreed it’s time to proceed with the move. Mutz asked the other commissioners whether there was “any resistance” to proceeding. None was expressed, and Delgado said, “We have our direction.”
In addition to the $150,000 quote from Energy Services, Delgado said costs include roughly $50,000 for site preparation, security during the move and cameras in Veterans Park to monitor the monument.
A federal judge last week dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Southern heritage organizations and individuals seeking to halt the monument move.U.S. District Judge Virginia Covington agreed with the city’s contention that the plaintiffs lacked standing to file suit.
Pasco County attorney David McAllister, who filed the suit, told The Ledger last week he plans to appeal the ruling in the federal court system and also file suit in state court to halt the move.
The monument issue arose in 2015 and 2016 when local residents asked commissioners to move the memorial to Confederate war dead, saying it doesn’t represent Lakeland in the 21st Century. Commissioners took no action at the time, but started discussing a move seriously in 2017 after numerous cities in the South started debating Confederate monuments and statues.