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Richmond to hold public hearing on new monument disposition process

Richmond to hold public hearing on new monument disposition process

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In July, workers removed the statue of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart from Monument Avenue. The city began taking down monuments without a council vote.

Mayor Stoney on the city's efforts thus far to remove the AP Hill statue.

Richmond city officials introduced formal plans Monday to decide where the Confederate monuments they took down last summer ultimately will go.

After months of delay in the process, the City Council and its staff is trying to reach a conclusion sooner with the help of officials from Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration.

The proposed process mulls more public engagement and approvals from additional commissions and oversight panels before the council reaches a final decision on the disposition of the monuments.

The city last year received about two dozen requests from museums, historical associations and heritage groups interested in acquiring the monuments. Officials have declined to say whether the monuments have been moved from their temporary location at a sewage treatment plant.

The council reviewed the offers and discussed criteria for rehoming the statues through the fall. Several members said they would want the city to sell the monuments to make up for the $1.8 million it spent taking them down. Others said they would want the city to carefully consider how they would be presented in a new location and context.

However, the process languished through the winter following the resignation of the council’s chief of staff and the introduction of two new council members who were elected last fall.

Joyce Davis, the council’s interim chief of staff, said a resolution outlining the process was developed after recent discussions between council and administration officials about including public input in the process.

“Instead of expediting it tonight, the full council process will allow the community to speak on it,” she said. “In the past, we’ve had public comments on removal of the monuments, but we have not had it for the disposition.”

A public hearing and vote on the resolution detailing the disposition process is scheduled for May 10.

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In other business Monday, the council reached consensus on allocating $100,000 to study the city’s pay scales for police officers and firefighters

Several council members recently proposed giving more money in the mayor’s budget in hopes of appeasing officers who say they would remain underpaid next year if the annual financial plan is unchanged.

The council was unable to agree Monday on whether to amend the budget further to address the concerns police and firefighters raised in a public hearing earlier this month.

The mayor’s proposed $770.3 million includes $5.8 million for varying wage increases for about two-thirds of city employees based on the recommendations of a 2018 study that found many employees make less than market rate.

But the city also plans to freeze funding for about 600 of the approximately 3,700 jobs listed in the general fund budget.

Several council members expressed frustration with the pace of budget deliberations after a second work session on the dozens of proposed amendments council members introduced earlier this month.

“This is another two-hour meeting that I don’t believe we have moved the needle on what our funding priorities are,” said 9th District Councilman Michael Jones. “We haven’t discussed a lot of the other issues that are important to many of us on council.”

Proposed budget amendments include cuts to charitable donations, departmental budgets and the Richmond Ambulance Authority in order to increase funding for wages in the public defender’s office, the city’s affordable housing fund and a new civilian-run police oversight board.

The council also briefly reviewed preliminary details about the expected revenue from the federal American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden last month.

A report given to council members says the federal plan is expected to deliver $158.4 million to the city and $122.8 million for the city’s school division, but city officials have said they do not expect to incorporate that money into the annual budget plan before its legally required adoption next month.

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