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Council rejects bid to defund Market House

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A councilwoman’s effort to withdraw funding for repurposing the Market House failed Monday night at a work session of the Fayetteville City Council, as well as her bid not to provide money for the proposed N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center.

The downtown historic landmark has been at the center of controversy since rioters broke into the building on May 30, 2020, and set fire to it following protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.  

“My request is to simply eliminate any funding for repurposing of the Market House,” Courtney Banks-McLaughlin told the council at the work session held at the FAST Transit Center. 

The Market House has been a polarizing issue for many in the African American community who oppose the landmark because it is a site where slaves once were sold. Some opponents have called for the Market House to be demolished, while others have pleaded to preserve the structure and chronicle it with Black history exhibits and historical education resources.  

Banks-McLaughlin’s request failed 7-3, with Mayor Mitch Colvin, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen and council members Larry Wright, D.J. Haire, Johnny Dawkins, Chris Davis and newly-appointed Antonio Jones voting not to pursue  the request. Council members Shakeyla Ingram and Yvonne Kinston sided with Banks-McLaughlin. 

The City Council previously voted 9-1 against relocating or demolishing the Market House. It is awaiting recommendations from the Department of Justice for repurposing.  

“Costs are unknown until a new or revised use is decided,” City Manager Doug Hewett said before the work session. 

The council also in a 7-3 vote denied Banks-McLaughlin’s effort not to provide more than $7 million in funding for an $80 million N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center proposed for Arsenal Avenue in Haymount. 

“So it’s for us to stop conversations on funding?” Ingram asked Banks-McLaughlin for clarification. 

Yes, Banks-McLaughlin said.

But Wright countered by saying he once opposed the Civil War center, but has since given second thoughts to the project.  

“I’m not in favor of a Civil War center or education program,” Wright said. “But I have heard the name is changed, and concepts. I think education and history is important. But if they (organizers) present something I can be comfortable with,” Wright said he can consider supporting the project. 

Help for the homeless

While Banks-McLaughlin could not persuade council to see her way about the Market House and the Civil War history center, an earlier request to address the city’s homeless population found common ground with the council.

“Just last week somebody died under a bridge,” Banks-McLaughlin said, describing  homelessness as a “crisis” in the city. “As a city, it is one of our responsibilities.” 

She wants the city to develop partnerships with the Salvation Army, the Manna Church Hope Center and others to assist more than a reported 350 homeless people in the city. 

“Can we have one recreation center (for the homeless this winter) while we try to figure this out?” Ingram asked. 

Colvin said the city is working with the county to address homelessness. The city has received $1 million for a homeless day center in the state budget. The county has received $1 million for a homeless shelter from the state. 

“Every one of us has a soft spot for the less fortunate and homeless,” Colvin said. “But has the Salvation Army come to us? Or are we going to them with $3 million and say, ‘You are going to do this.’” 

Juneteenth holiday

The council also agreed to have city staff research Juneteenth, June 19, as a city holiday. The holiday commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves. The council wants to have a celebration for Juneteenth as well as an Independence Day celebration.

“You saw the results of a very successful New Year’s Eve celebration” at Festival Park, Colvin said about Kinston’s request.  

The council agreed to have Bianca Shoneman, executive director of the Cool Spring Downtown District, and city staff work toward developing both celebrations, similar to development of the Night Circus New Year’s Eve celebration.  

“The Cool Spring Downtown District has proven they know how to make it work,” Jensen said.  

The council discussed other work session items, including Davis’ request for a recreation center at Sherwood Park/Sherwood Park Elementary School; a request by Kinston for highway safety improvements along Cliffdale Road; a crime prevention mini grant program for community watch groups and nonprofits at the request of Ingram; a doorbell security camera program presented by the mayor; and heard from the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization about a railway proposal eastward toward Wake County. 

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961. 

Fayetteville, City Council, Market House, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, homeless shelter, Sherwood Park, Juneteenth, N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center

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