The Jefferson County Quorum Court has been asked to allow a private group to locate a statue of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a portion of Barraque Plaza across from the county courthouse.
During committee meetings Tuesday night, Barbara Blunt Muhammad, who said she was executive director of the MLK Project, said the original site planned for the statue in front of the courthouse did not have enough room and she wanted permission to locate the statue in the plaza, which is owned by the county.
“Pine Bluff was very active in the civil rights movement and a lot of segregation barriers were torn down here,” she said. “The statue will be a way to honor the legacy of Dr. King.”
Asked by Justice of the Peace Ted Harden if she was also asking for funding from the Quorum Court to construct the statue, Blunt Muhammad said “not at this time.”
She said the statue is expected to cost $250,000 and a fundraising campaign is ongoing at this time.
Blunt Muhammad also said she had not talked to Pine Bluff Downtown Development about the idea of using the plaza because she had been assured by city officials that the property is owned by the county.
“Downtown Development would have an interest,” Harden said.
Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd said that the city of Little Rock has several statutes that have been stolen or vandalized and asked Blunt Muhammad is she was expecting the county to also provide security for the statue.
“It will be lighted but I can say we would expect the county to help us with security,” Blunt Muhammad said.
Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin III asked Blunt Muhammad if she had talked to Pine Bluff Community Development about the project, citing ongoing work on the streetscape project and other improvements to the downtown area.
“The city of Pine Bluff is well aware of the project,” Blunt Muhammad said.
The justices of the peace told Blunt Muhammad they would consider her request.
Also Tuesday night, a resolution to appoint a member to the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Historical Museum Commission was recommended for approval, but not before members of the county’s legislative body engaged in spirited debate about the commission’s bylaws, which conflict with a 1996 ordinance that established the commission.
The resolution appoints Pamela McFall to a three-year term on the commission, retroactive to Jan. 1, with the term to end Dec. 31, 2017.
That three-year term is contrary to the ordinance, which calls for members appointed to the commission to be appointed for seven-year terms.
In addition, the commission bylaws, which were adopted June 8, 2011, calls for a six-member commission, while the ordinance calls for seven members.
“There needs to be seven members,” County Judge Dutch King said.
Byrd also said that while the museum receives money from the county every year, “They never tell us what they do with the money.
“They need to present us with a report,” he said. “We’re the enacting body.”
“I will make sure that happens,” King said.
Justice of the Peace Mandy Alford said the commission bylaws “need to be revised.”
Resolutions authorizing King to apply for a $5,000 state grant for Hestand Stadium on behalf of the Southeast Arkansas Livestock Show and Rodeo and a $150,000 state grant on behalf of the Jefferson County Humane Society were also recommended for approval.
In order to apply for the state grants, nonprofit organizations are required to get permission from the Quorum Court and if the funds are approved, they must be administered by the judge’s office.