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Monument committee decides against survey, sets another meeting for input

The Confederate monument committee voted against conducting a countywide survey to gauge residents' thoughts on the statue in downtown Denton, committee chairman John Baines told Denton County commissioners Tuesday. 

Last week, two commissioners balked at the idea of a survey for a county of 800,000, especially one the county would have to pay for. Commissioner Hugh Coleman said the survey might be outside of the scope of what the advisory committee was assigned to do, and Commissioner Andy Eads said the group should be cautious of  "who you ask and how you ask it." 

The committee, which first met on Nov. 17, is playing a significant role in deciding the fate of the monument, erected in 1918 as a memorial to Confederate soldiers. Ultimately, the committee's 15 members will either ask commissioners to remove the statue or add more historical context around it.

Baines told commissioners during their regular Tuesday meeting that the group acknowledged the commissioners' warnings and decided against a survey. They're still eyeing a recommendation by late January or the first week of February, Baines said.

He said cost was a major reason the group voted against the survey. 

"By the time you formulate your questions and then look at the cost that comes with it, that's really not something you want to have the taxpayers undertake," Baines said. 

Last Thursday, during the group's most recent meeting, Baines said the committee spoke with University of North Texas history professor Randolph "Mike" Campbell. Campbell, who has taught at UNT for more than 50 years, told the group he wouldn't support removing the statue, according to Baines, but that he would support building a monument to African-American history on the north side of the Courthouse on the Square, Baines said. The Confederate monument sits on the south lawn of the courthouse.

Baines has been giving weekly updates to commissioners about the group's progress. He told them Tuesday that 35 people spoke at the group's most recent public input meeting on Thursday evening in the courthouse.  Several ancestors of Confederate soldiers spoke both in favor of and against the statue's removal, he said. 

Baines said he spent about $300 of his own money for video and audio recordings of that meeting. County Judge Mary Horn said he would be reimbursed. 

The group will next meet Thursday, Dec. 21, in the 1896 Room in the Courthouse on the Square. There will be another public input meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, in the Commissioners Courtroom. 

In other action, county commissioners approved 150 artifacts that 13 people have donated to the Denton County Office of History and Culture in the past six months. The artifacts included old UNT yearbooks, a panoramic photo of Denton from the early 1900s and a flag from the Flower Mound Foundation. 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.