Caldwell County Commissioners Court accepts bid to remove Confederate monument from Courthouse
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
The bid to relocate the Confederate monument from the Courthouse was accepted by the Caldwell County Commissioners Court on Jan. 12, putting its removal from the square into motion.
The bid was awarded to HCS Inc. General Contractor for $29,600. They were the only company who bid on the project, which was open for four weeks. The project will consist of removing, relocating, and restabilizing the monument to the Caldwell County Museum.
In a letter on Jan. 11 the group who formally requested the removal of the monument requested that the court extend the bid window by 30 days.
“We are disappointed to see how few contractors have applied for the monument’s removal in Lockhart, and acknowledge with a more concerted effort, together, we can do a better job of recruiting more qualified and competitive bids,” the letter stated.
The bid was open for 30 days on the Caldwell County website, was advertised in the Austin American Statesman and the Bastrop Advertiser for the entire month of November, and physically posted on the courthouse lawn grounds.
The procurement office, which put together the bid, notified Capital Monument in Gonzalez, which specializes in this type of project, Terracon, who could provide a list of potential bidders, and the project was posted to Dodge Data and Analytics, a construction bidding service.
The commissioners debated extending the bid window by 30 days, but the extension presented ethical issues.
“There is certainly, in my opinion, some morality issues with doing that,” Commissioner B.J. Westmoreland said at the meeting. “It’s not acting in good faith towards the one bidder that did follow the guidelines and submitted it in the appropriate time. That’s not fair to that company.”
Purchasing Agent Danie Blake recommended against extending the bid on those grounds.
“I don’t think you are going to get a competitive bid now because now you have HCS’s amount out there and I don’t think that would be quite fair to that company for us to advertise how much they bid, reject it, and then put it back out for bid,” Blake said.
Putting the bid out again would have further delayed the project.
“I’ve personally been accused of foot dragging on this thing because the bid didn’t come out as fast as some people wanted,” Judge Hoppy Haden said. “That bid was open for 30 days. The time to see and put forth vendors was during that 30 days.”
With the bid now accepted, the county can submit their application to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to obtain a permit to move the monument. The Commission reviews applications at their quarterly meetings, with the next one scheduled for Feb. 2-3. THC will vet the bidder, as well as the project to ensure it is within their guidelines.
Once the permit has been issued, the group that requested the monument be removed will need to submit the funds to pay for the project. This was decided by the Citizens Advisory Committee, who determined that because private funds had paid for the construction and installation of the monument when it was installed, it would need to also be moved with private funds.
“We’ve been clear with County officials about the amount of money we’ve raised, $7,900, so far. That’s why we asked for a 30-day extension to get more competitive bids. We applaud Commissioners’ bold commitment to move forward in relocating the monument, especially after seeing Confederate flags in the hands of extremists during the deadly storming of the US Capitol which reminded us how important it is to place this monument where it can be given proper historical context,” Sterling Riles, a lifelong Lockhart resident who has steadily championed its removal, said in an email. “The monument was installed in Lockhart at the height of local Ku Klux Klan influence and Judge Haden and the other Commissioners acted fearlessly in committing to relocate this horrendously offensive monument.”
According to the purchasing agent, HCS did not give a deadline for having to start the project and she said they offered to work with the county as long as the project is still moving forward.