A public bid process will be used to select a new company to take down four Confederate monuments in New Orleans after the firm previously tapped for the job backed out in the face of threats, officials said Tuesday.
The announcement the city would be seeking bids came as Cedric Grant, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top adviser on infrastructure and capital projects, sought to reassure members of the City Council that removing the statues would not involve any public money.
The discussion came as a council committee signed off on a plan to use $170,000 from an anonymous donor to remove statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard and a monument to the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, in which a white militia led a violent insurrection against the state’s biracial post-Civil War government.
The money will be funneled through the nonprofit Foundation for Louisiana to avoid creating a public record of the donor’s identity.
Throughout the brief discussion, council members sought assurances that only private funds would be used for the removal.
“If we’re going to be doing something I believe is horrible, bad for all the reasons I’ve said, I certainly don’t want to do it with public dollars,” said Councilwoman Stacy Head, the only member of the council to vote against removing the monuments.
“It would add insult to injury if we were using public dollars to do this, but since we’re not using public dollars for it, I think it is making a bad situation not worse.”
Grant told the council there are no plans to use any city money for removing the statues but that a new contractor to do the project needs to be found.
City officials have not responded to repeated requests in recent weeks for information on how the removal would proceed.
The decision to seek public bids is a departure from the process officials had previously outlined and suggests there may be difficulty finding companies willing or able to do the work.
H&O Investments of Baton Rouge was initially selected from a list of contractors preapproved to do relatively small projects for the city. But the firm backed out after its owner and staff received death threats. The owner’s $200,000 Lamborghini was later found torched in front of the firm’s office.
The request for bids for the project is expected to be released within a week, though a city spokesman declined to provide a timeline for a new firm to be chosen or for the monuments to be removed from public property.
Resident Jonathan Maki criticized the removal process during Tuesday’s meeting, arguing that the city had failed to be transparent throughout the process, as evidenced by the effort to hide the source of the donation.
Maki also questioned whether $170,000 would be enough to do the job, citing other opponents of the monuments’ removal who have said the job could cost $1 million or more.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.