It cost a total of $2.1 million — half of it public money — to take down four Jim Crow-era monuments in New Orleans, according to records the city released Friday.
About half of the money was spent on the removals themselves and the rest on security and support services that included paying a private security contractor more than $710,000 to monitor and infiltrate various protest groups.
The records also indicate the contractor who took down three of the four statues found itself out by about $217,000 after the city refused to increase the $600,000 contract to account for additional time spent on the jobs, each of which stretched on several hours.
The city cut the $90,000 cost of removing the Battle of Liberty Place monument — the first to be taken down — by more than 25 percent during negotiations with another contractor after the obelisk had been removed.
The city announced the cost of the monument removals, which played out from late April through May amid protests, threats and national media attention, on Friday in response to public records requests from media including The New Orleans Advocate.
The public costs of the removal will largely be absorbed by the budgets of the various city departments involved and should not have a major impact, Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said.
The costs for the private security contractor will be covered by reducing various consulting contracts the city has, including those for analyzing the pension systems for firefighters and jail employees, the city budget and general economic analysis.
Actually removing the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard and the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place cost a total of $665,000 plus an additional $400,000 for backup equipment and labor. Those costs were paid by private donors whose identities are being kept anonymous; their donations are being routed through the Foundation for Louisiana.
In addition, however, the city spent about $1.04 million of public money on other related costs, including the bills for New Orleans police, firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel to be present at the removals and at a massive protest at the Lee statue at Lee Circle.
The security costs also included $710,000 to Trident Response Group, a Dallas-based private security firm that provided “threat assessments,” public safety plans and analysis that included undercover work infiltrating groups on both sides of the issue as well as intelligence gathering through social media monitoring and other methods.
“That’s the cost of the extremists and some of the racist extremists that gravitated to this project over the last two years,” Berni said.
“This went from a standard capital project — removing some monuments with some equipment — to a full-bore homeland security event. Through intelligence gathering from NOPD, State Police and FBI and through our private contractors, it became very clear that there were fringe groups, extremist groups that were looking to make this their cause célèbre and incite violence,” he said.
There were threats against contractors and city employees before the removals began and continuing protests during the removals themselves. A protest at Lee Circle also brought right-wing and white-supremacist groups from around the country, some preparing for brawls with anti-monument protesters.
Trident bills itself as “an intelligence-based consulting firm” made up of “private sector business leaders, attorneys and veterans of military Special Operations, federal law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community.”
The security contractors and advisers were paid between $175 and $275 an hour, while the senior Trident employees who drafted the security plan were paid between $275 and $425 an hour.
City officials did not provide details Friday on the extent of Trident’s operations or exactly which groups were being spied on, but they confirmed the firm's personnel were on the ground in an undercover capacity during the protests and provided a “safehouse” for workers involved in the project, at a cost of $3,000.
The security firm also received another $400,000 in privately donated money to procure backup cranes and laborers, which were used at times after city officials and contractors ran into problems acquiring construction equipment in light of the threats.
The security services came on top of hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs for city workers to provide security.
Officers of the New Orleans Police Department worked more than 8,600 hours to provide securi…
New Orleans police officers were paid almost $113,400 in overtime and $106,500 in regular time, in addition to other compensation such as time off, for a total of more than 10,515 hours of work on the removals.
Earlier this week, The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV reported preliminary figures on NOPD pay during the removals that did not include taking down of the Battle of Liberty Place monument on Iberville Street.
Another $26,330 was spent on firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel, and almost $16,720 was spent to pay other city workers and for other costs, including providing meals to city employees during the daylong removal of the Lee statue.
The city also spent almost $64,500 building and providing security for a shed at the Alvar Street storage yard where some of the monuments are being kept.
The cost and funding sources for the monuments' removal has been a contested issue since early in the process. When speaking to the City Council before its 6-1 vote to take down the statues in December 2015, Mayor Mitch Landrieu pledged that the money to remove the monuments would come from private donations.
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At the time, the city estimated the removals would be a relatively quick process that would cost $175,000, which it said had already been secured from a private donor. That target jumped to $600,000 earlier this year, the amount that the only firm to bid on the project, Cuzan Services, said it would need to remove the statues of Lee, Davis and Beauregard.
At the end of May, Cuzan requested an additional $216,000 for unexpected time spent by workers on the removals. That request was denied by the city because the removals occurred in the timeframe included in the original bid documents.
The cost of removing the Liberty Place monument came in at $65,000, about $25,000 less than the invoice the company handling that project requested. That company’s name was not listed in the records provided by the city.