Windsor says ‘no’ to monument

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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In a unanimous Feb. 9 vote, Windsor’s Town Council rejected the idea of relocating Isle of Wight County’s Confederate monument to the town’s municipal cemetery.

Currently, the monument stands outside the county’s government complex, where it’s stood for the past 115 years. County residents who want it relocated, among them local NAACP Chapter President Valerie Butler, argue the statue glorifies the Confederacy and white supremacy, while those who wish it to stay argue removing it would be tantamount to erasing history.

Relocating the monument to Windsor’s cemetery had been the No. 1 recommendation of an eight-member task force the county had formed in October 2020, should Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors feel inclined to move it.

The council had planned to poll its citizenry by including a survey with the town’s water bills — an act Mayor Glyn Willis acknowledged would likely cost the town roughly $1,000 and delay a final vote on the matter by two months. But Town Manager William Saunders informed the council members that evening that doing so likely wouldn’t reach every resident, as there are several apartment complexes and mobile home parks in town where only the landlord — not the tenants — receive the bill.

Saunders said he’d also recently received correspondence from the town’s insurance agency, the Virginia Risk Sharing Association, on the matter, urging the town to reject the monument on the grounds of negative publicity and the potential for lawsuits.

While the Association didn’t outright decline to cover any such lawsuits, the correspondence indicated it would cap any damages at $100,000 per incident.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Walter Bernacki had asked about the possibility of a non-binding voter referendum to be added to the ballot for the gubernatorial election this November. But state law, as Saunders paraphrased, only allows a referendum prior to a public hearing on the matter. The county already held such a hearing Sept. 3 last year, which drew a nearly even split of speakers for and against removal.

Councilman Greg Willis, balking at the potential cost to the town to survey its citizens, made the motion to end any further discussion of the town taking the monument, which was seconded by Councilman George Stubbs.