Representatives of three contractors who showed up Monday for a briefing on plans for removing three Confederate monuments in New Orleans seemed as interested in potential security threats as in the details of the city’s bidding process.
None of the representatives identified themselves during or after the meeting, apparently apprehensive about the negative attention already directed at businesses that have expressed interest in the work.
The plan to remove the statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee from its pedestal at Lee Circle, Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Jefferson Davis Parkway and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard from near the entrance to City Park was approved by the New Orleans City Council in December. Since then, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, which originally called for the statues’ removal, has been trying to hire a contractor in the face of heavy opposition from monument supporters.
While Monday’s pre-bid conference — a voluntary opportunity for firms to get answers to any questions about the project — included standard discussions of the work involved, it was clear that the fight over the statues weighed on the minds of those interested in bidding.
One potential bidder asked if the work could be done in the middle of the night or early in the morning, times when protests or other opposition might be less likely. That could be arranged, city officials said, stressing that the city would provide security whenever necessary.
Another representative asked if the company doing the work would be required to put up signs identifying itself. “That’s up to your discretion, given that this is a very sensitive project,” said Vince Smith, the city’s director of capital projects.
Officials did stress that the monuments would need to be removed and relocated to a city warehouse without damage, though the administration has been deliberately vague about the site of the warehouse.
None of the bidders seemed to think removing the monuments would be difficult or seemed concerned that the $170,000 offered toward the effort by an anonymous donor would fall short of the amount needed for the job.
The original bidder selected by the city, H&O Investments of Baton Rouge, backed out early in the process after its owner said he and his employees received death threats. Shortly afterward, the owner’s Lamborghini was found torched in the company parking lot.
The city then put the process out for bid but quickly took down a public list of companies that had requested documents about the job after firms reported receiving harassing phone calls from people seeking to block the removal.
The city also plans to remove a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, an insurrection by a white supremacist militia against Louisiana’s post-Civil War government. However, that monument is protected by a court order that must be lifted before the city can proceed, and a company to handle that job is expected to be selected through a separate process.
The city plans to open the bids for the Lee, Davis and Beauregard statues on April 22. The winning bidder or bidders will be expected to remove the statues within 45 days after being awarded the job.
Companies did not need to attend Monday’s meeting in order to bid.