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Proposed changes to ‘Fame’ relocation agreement are ‘relatively minor’

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has until June 26 to sign a formal agreement for the “Fame” Confederate statue’s relocation to Old Lutheran Cemetery, but only minor differences in terms are currently being negotiated.

The Robert F. Hoke chapter of the UDC approached the city with modified terms on Tuesday afternoon — just before council convened for its regular meeting. One local who’s been involved in the deal-making is Ed Norvell, who said the changes are “relatively minor.” He added that he’s hopeful the minor changes can be resolved.

Mayor Karen Alexander echoed that sentiment and said the deal seems to be “very close.” On Wednesday, she said the city attorney was preparing the formal agreement to be mailed to the UDC for its signature.

One change the UDC proposed to the city on Tuesday includes the ownership rights of the median at the intersection of West Innes Street and Church Street, where the statue currently stands. The UDC characterized its ownership right to the median as a deed, but it’s actually considered an easement agreement between the city and the UDC. The city has agreed to rescind the easement agreement, which would put the median back in the city’s possession.

The specific site for the statue’s relocation outlined in the agreement is within the eastern portion of Old Lutheran Cemetery, which is bound by existing grave markers, the brick and stone along East Franklin Street and the North Carolina Railroad, as well as an opening in the stone wall along East Franklin Street.

The relocation agreement states the city will cover the costs of the relocation and the placement of the statue on its new foundation. The city will give the UDC full ownership of the new site in the Old Lutheran Cemetery by means of a warranty deed. From there, any repairs or maintenance becomes the responsibility of the UDC.

Another change proposed by the UDC involves the issue of maintaining the new site of the statue. The UDC requested that the Historic Salisbury Foundation be responsible for “the cost of decorative site amenities, site maintenance and site security.” But the agreement approved by the city only requires the HSF to serve as a fiduciary agent to oversee the funds raised for the statue.

Norvell was approached by the city June 8 to raise funds for the statue’s new site amenities. Those amenities include an 8-foot-high wrought iron fence erected around the monument as well as security cameras to ensure the statue is preserved and protected.

Norvell, who said his great-great aunt was one of the original women who erected the statue in Salisbury, raised more than $55,000 in funds for the purpose of new site amenities. Those funds have been raised by the descendants of the original daughters and local historic groups. He added that more locals have inquired about making a donation, which would allow for some money in reserves if the statue is moved.

Alexander said that, while the city won’t request proposals for relocation until the agreement is signed or rejected, the city manager has estimated the cost of the move to the city will amount to around $45,000.

Additionally, if the UDC doesn’t sign, the city, by declaring it a public safety hazard, is authorized to remove the statue from its current location and store it for no more than 90 days. The resolution, approved by the city council on Tuesday, states that the UDC will have until July 16 to relocate the statue. But the proposed relocation agreement would take care of that issue.

Norvell, as one of the descendants, said he spoke with other descendants as a deal was being drafted and all agreed with the statue’s relocation since it has become a flashpoint in the community. Norvell also told city council members during the meeting on Tuesday that it is time to move the statue.

“I want to do everything I can to bring racial healing to the community,” he said in an interview with the Post.

Additionally, Norvell said the descendants agree that the statue doesn’t belong near the entrance of the new Bell Tower Green Park, which Norvell said “looks to the future” and should be “everyone’s park.”

“It needs to represent the 21st century, not the 19th or 20th century,” he said.

He added that the current members of the UDC don’t have any connections to the original group that erected the statue in 1909 from what he knows, and that he hasn’t had direct contact with any members of the UDC.

Additionally, Norvell said as the proposal for the statue’s relocation was coming together, he spoke with local NAACP president Gemale Black. The first thing Black told him on the phone, he said, was “thank you.”

In a statement released by the local NAACP chapter on Tuesday, Black commended the relocation effort and vowed the chapter will continue raising its voices “to the injustices that black and brown people are faced with every day.”

“Our stories will not be silenced due to the discomfort that it may cause for some,” Black said in the statement. “A plan of action for next steps will be released in the coming days for those who would like to get involved in this movement as we make Salisbury a better place for all citizens.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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