Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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July 4th early morning crash into fence surrounding monument causes damage at Confederate Monument

In unrelated analysis, DOT also says crosswalk in front on monument may need to be reconfigured

The past couple of weeks seem to have exposed a few chinks in the fence that surrounds the Confederate monument at the main entrance to Alamance County’s Historic Court House.

The county originally raised this sturdy, steel barrier in the opening months of 2021 after a series of demonstrations and rallies against the monument’s presence on the grounds of the courthouse.

Before the fence was installed, the county had relied on portable barricades and round-the-clock surveillance to protect the 108-year-old tribute to local residents who fought for the Confederacy. The county’s leaders had hoped that a more permanent barrier would allow them to roll back or abandon these ad hoc measures. So, in February of 2021, the county issued a purchase order for an 8-foot-high Impasse II Gauntlet Ameristar steel fence, which was eventually set up that April – at a cost of at least $32,100.

The Confederate monument has remained safe and secure behind this eight-foot bastion since its installation. But the fence itself has proven less resistant to challenges – including some concerns from the N.C. Department of Transportation about its potential hindrance to a pedestrian crosswalk in front of the courthouse.

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Last week, Alamance County’s then-interim manager Sherry Hook recalled the NCDOT’s previous qualms with the barrier when she briefed the county’s board of commissioners about some forthcoming state-funded resurfacing work. Hook went on to describe the state’s plan to address those concerns in an email she shared with the commissioners on June 28.

“The state indicated that [the] fencing was in the line of [sight] of cars coming around the courthouse and impedes pedestrians’ view[s] when coming from the courthouse,” she went on to explain in the electronic missive, which The Alamance News obtained this week under the N.C. Public Records Law. “NCDOT indicated that the crosswalk should be moved to the other side of the street,” she added. “There will be some cost to the county for this move, and I will inform the board as soon as we have that information.”

Hook also enclosed a diagram that showed the crosswalk’s proposed relocation from its current northward trajectory in front of the courthouse, where it bisects another crosswalk along Main Street, to a new, more oblique path that would lead to the northeast corner of Court Square.

[Story continues below DOT illustration of proposed changed crosswalk pattern near the monument.]

Since Hook dispatched her memo to the commissioners, the integrity of the steel fence also sustained another, even more literal hit from a passing vehicle.

According to Tony Velez, a captain with Graham’s police department, an unidentified pickup truck apparently slammed into the barrier in the small hours on Monday, July 4. Velez acknowledged that the police department didn’t actually learn about this collision until two days later.

“It was just reported to the police department a couple of hours ago,” he told The Alamance News in an interview Wednesday. “But based on some footage we have – which is still under investigation – it appears that it was an accident – a hit-and-run. And it was slow-speed, so it could’ve been an impaired driver.”

Velez noted that an initial estimate by the investigating officer has put the presumed cost of the damage somewhere in excess of $1,000. He nevertheless added that this estimate is liable to change as the investigation continues – as may the department’s other conclusions about the circumstances surrounding the wreck.

Other video surveillance footage from the area shows the truck remained on the scene for about 12 minutes, until 4:48 a.m., with various other drivers appearing to stop to ask if the driver of the truck needed assistance.

But he left the scene before anyone from the Graham police or sheriff’s department was aware of the incident.

Law enforcement is hoping that one of those drivers who attempted to assist will notify them and help identify more details about the truck and the driver.

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