This story is reported by The Columbus Dispatch, a Spectrum News partner.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The cost to remove and store the Christopher Columbus statue formerly outside City Hall on July 1 has cost taxpayers $90,000 to date, according to an ordinance approved by Columbus City Council on Monday evening.
But the statue’s whereabouts remains secret, with the city continuing to say only that the 65-year-old gift from the city of Genoa, Italy, was taken to “a secure location.”
On Monday evening, council also unanimously approved placing a green-energy electricity aggregation plan on the November ballot. It would appear alongside a new city-charter amendment announced earlier in the day that would create a civilian police oversight board to investigate officer use of force and potential misconduct.
The statue ordinance approved Monday paid $5,500 to the McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation, which operates “the Ohio Conservation Center,” “a large campus of three principal buildings with substantial outside work areas and truck (semi-tractor trailer) access and a fourth storage building,” near Oberlin, west of Cleveland, the firm’s website says.
It’s unclear where the statue currently resides. A July 1 press release from the mayor’s office said the statue was originally stored at a “city facility.”
“McKay Lodge is an art conservation and historical preservation company that will oversee the removal, transport, and storage of the statue in order to ensure that its preservation conforms to industry standards and best practices,” the ordinance said.
It’s unclear if more storage fees are coming.
Columbus’ Smoot Construction Company was paid $84,500 for the “removal, transport, and delivery,” the ordinance said. Both firms were hired under an “informal quotation process” following Ginther’s mid-June decision to remove it.
Groups advocating for the statue’s removal cite Columbus’ genocidal cleansing of the New World over 500 years ago and his exploitation of Native people, while Italian-Americans countered that such statues are works of art that should be preserved.
In other business Monday:
• Council learned that about half of the 1,500 small businesses that inquired about getting city grants and loans paid by federal coronavirus stimulus funds were disqualified because they weren’t located in a “low- or moderate-income” zone, or LMI.
The Dispatch reported in June that the city’s reliance on LMI’s differed from Franklin County’s approach, which said businesses qualify so long as the owner met certain criteria such as having a low or moderate income, regardless of their locations.
The city’s method meant that a high-income business located inside an LMI would qualify, while a low-income one outside of the zones wouldn’t, the city said last month. The city approved 126 small businesses for loans and grants totaling $1.1 million, and another 179 payments are under review totaling another $1.3 million, city Development Director Michael Stevens said.
But with more than $3 million still left to distribute, the city will now open up the applications to businesses anywhere in Columbus, Stevens said.
• The city dissolved two Job Creation Tax Credit agreements with NBBJ LLC, and Quantum Health, Inc. Both firms were paid 65% of the city income taxes generated by new employees, NBBJ for 12 years and Quantum for 16 years. Quantum’s deal was granted in 2012, and NBBJ in 2014.
In letters sent to the city this year asking for the program to be canceled, neither firm said why they wanted the deals scrubbed. But Stevens told council that “when they do not meet their job creation commitments or other commitments, we work with them to dissolve that agreement.”
Quantum was required to make an investment of $3.4 million in furniture and equipment, retain 230 permanent full-time employees and create 525 permanent positions. NBBJ was to make $2 million in leasehold improvements and new furniture and fixtures, the relocation and retention of 100 full-time jobs and the creation of 16 full-time permanent positions.
• Councilmember Elizabeth Brown continued to press the Division of Police for its instructions to officers on wearing masks, saying despite her requests “I’ve gotten nothing.”
Police officers and other public-safety workers were exempt from a mask ordinance passed July 6, instituting fines for two or more violations, if it would “interfere with or limit their ability to carry out their official duties.”
Deputy Public Safety Director Craig Stone said the division had issued instructions, including examples, of when it would appropriate for safety employees to interact with the public without a mask, and that information would be forwarded to Brown.
• Council unanimously approved issuing $33.5 million in “limited tax bond anticipation notes,” similar to bonds, for the construction of a city-owned 1,400 parking garage at the new Scioto Peninsula mixed-use development west of COSI.
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