City Receiving Donations to Move the Monument

Lakeland residents have begun donating to a fund the city set up to pay the costs of moving a 108-year-old Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park. As of this morning, donations came to $7,995, city Finance Director Mike Brossart said.

The bulk of the donations came in the form of checks made out to the city for its Munn Park Monument Relocation fund. Nearly $1,000 came via a GoFundMe page set up to receive contributions.

The fund-raising effort came up this morning as City Manager Tony Delgado briefed city commissioners on plans for moving the monument.

When commissioners voted May 7 to move the monument, they specified that the move be paid with private donations, not tax dollars. It will cost as much as $250,000 to move the monument, the city manager projected.

City officials anticipate a mix of small and large donations will emerge as fund-raising proceeds.

Delgado said today that city staffers are:

  • Taking a close look at Veterans Park, which overlooks Lake Beulah just west of the RP Funding Center, for an appropriate placement for the monument.
  • Preparing a request for proposal document seeking companies to dismantle, transport and reassemble the monument. The city had already received a relocation estimate from Energy Services & Products Corp. of Tampa, which moved a similar monument from the downtown Hillsborough County Courthouse to a private cemetery in Brandon. If need be, Polk can piggyback on the Hillsborough contract, Delgado said.
  • Drafting an application to the Lakeland Historic Preservation Board, which oversees structures in historic districts. Delgado said he hopes to submit materials in time for the board’s July meeting.
  • Putting together a web “microsite” to detail the monument’s history and efforts to move it.
  • Publishing a fund-raising thermometer to show updated donation levels.
  • Estimating staffing and costs for security, transportation, site preparation, landscaping, etc.

The are no current plans for a structure at the center of Munn Park where the monument now stands, Delgado said. The bricks that surround the monument, which represent donations made to upgrade the park in the early 1990s, will remain in place, he said.

Commissioner Michael Dunn questioned whether the ability to donate anonymously through the GoFundMe page contradicted efforts to make sure government remains transparent and suggested the city abandon the GoFundMe campaign.

Brossart responded that individuals can already donate anonymously by bringing a cashier’s check or cash to City Hall. Commissioner Stephanie Madden added that donations made to a government are legally different than election campaign contributions, which cannot be anonymous.

Others pointed out that people leave anonymous donations at city parks, and large anonymous donations have paid for city improvements such as the law enforcement memorial at the Lakeland Police Department headquarters. As a result, Dunn withdrew his suggestion to eliminate the GoFundMe campaign.

At the meeting, Dunn also handed City Attorney Tim McCausland a sample ordinance that would make it difficult to move or modify certain monuments, and he suggested the city consider adopting it.

The same ordinance was suggested to the City Commission a year ago by David Brewer, representing the Polk County Historical Association. At the time, no commissioner made a motion to adopt the ordinance, so no action was taken.