City commissioners today gave their staff the green light to move the Confederate monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park by Jan. 31. By a 4-3 vote, they authorized the use of up to $225,000 in red-light camera funds for the move.
Mayor Bill Mutz led the charge, saying the move fulfills a promise made by the previous commission last December to move the monument and do it without using tax funds, as that commission had specified.
In a show-of-hands vote, the move was supported by Mutz and Commissioners Don Selvage, Justin Troller and Phillip Walker. It was opposed by Commissioners Scott Franklin, Stephanie Madden and Bill Read.
The latter three had supported a failed motion by Madden to use $125,000 in red-light camera funds to move the monument, counting on matching donations from citizens and businesses for the balance.
But Mutz said doing that would reinforce impressions that the commission won’t commit to a decision, and Troller said, “The longer we let it linger, the community can’t move on.”
The city has raised $26,209 through private contributions toward moving the monument. Mutz said all donors they can identify will be given the option of leaving their contribution or having it refunded.
Franklin said many people have expressed concerns that the monument will be more exposed to vandalism at Veterans Park than it has been at Munn Park, where more people are present.
Mutz said security cameras will be placed on the 27-foot monument at Veterans Park, where it will continue to be displayed on its large pedestal and face east, as it does in Munn Park.
City Manager Tony Delgado said the $225,000 estimate to move the monument included funds for security via lighting and cameras. About $152,000 to $158,000 of the estimate is for the actual moving of the monument, Delgado said. The rest is for things like repair of the Munn Park site, manpower, insurance and security.
Mutz said he thinks the city can reduce the total expenditure to $200,000 “with efficiencies.”
The monument vote came at the end of a two-hour hearing on how the city will spend $1.7 million in red-light camera fines it’s been holding in reserve. The money had gone unspent while the city awaited a ruling on a legal challenge to red light cameras. The city got the go-ahead to spend the money after the Florida Supreme Court upheld red-light camera use in May.
Two other expenditures emerged from this morning’s workshop:
- $190,000 for a homelessness initiative the commission has discussed since September. Commissioners who had been reluctant to support the package previously were relieved to learn that it has the support of the local non-profit agencies that serve the homeless.
- $130,000 to conduct a special election scheduled for Jan. 15 and a possible runoff Feb. 12 to select a replacement for recently resigned Commissioner Michael Dunn. Half of that money will be unneeded if there’s no runoff election.
The rest of the funds the commissioners committed this morning are being held aside for projects that are in the planning stages:
- $1 million for an escrow fund available as a guarantee of first-years profitability for any major passenger airline company that starts daily flights from Lakeland Linder International Airport. Private entities would be expected to match the city’s contribution.
- $100,000 for a proposed center on aging and ethnic heritage. Commissioners will hear details on that proposal at a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday.
- $50,000 for public education regarding any broadband initiative pursued by the city next year. A consultant is expected to create an “investor-grade business plan” on high-speed Internet by next spring.
Video: The full workshop
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