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Charters of Freedom

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – The Constitution could be coming to Windsor along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.  And when they do, none of them will have to even leave the nation’s capital to get here.

Monday at the Perdue Wellness Center in Lewiston-Woodville at the monthly meeting the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, the group voted to move ahead with an initiative that would bring bronze replicas of those three pillars of our democratic government – part of a three-stage monument – to the county.

At a PowerPoint presentation made at a September Commissioners meeting in Kelford, Burke County businessmen Vance Patterson and Ron Lewis of Foundation Forward, Inc. first presented the idea to the Commissioners with the fundamental goal of bringing replicas of the Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, to as many local areas as possible, including Bertie County.

“All of you that were there at the (September) meeting heard a really great presentation from Foundation Forward,” said Commission chairman Ronald D. (Ron) Wesson.  “These sites have been established not just across the state but also around the country and it shows the Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.”

Each replica copy of the documents within the monument is an engraving on quarter-inch thick bronze weighing over 70 pounds covered by three-quarter inches of laminated glass.  Each also information on the original in Washington and a dedication plaque with quotes from the ‘framers of the Constitution’.

The monuments would cost an estimated $75,000 with the Foundation Forward group spearheading the fund-raising effort.  They would also be providing contractors to design and build the monuments at a county location to be determined.  Patterson and Lewis added that the monument would last for 300 to 500 years.

“There would be no cost per se to the county government but they would be looking at grants as well as donations from citizens and businesses to help build the monument,” Wesson continued. “It is a very, very attractive monument showing the history upon which our government is founded and it would be an excellent draw to visitors coming into the county if we could fins an appropriate place for it.”

The other five monument sites are the original in Morganton at the Burke County Courthouse, two others in Cherokee and Buncombe counties in the western part of the state, and two out of state.

Patterson explained at the September presentation the idea for this first struck him after visiting The National Archives in Washington, D.C. and viewing the original documents on display.

Among those hearing the August presentation was Bertie County Schools Superintendent Elaine White who declared the project, “an excellent idea” that served an educational purpose and Patterson and Lewis invited her to be a part of their steering committee.

The project, they explained, would also be for people who might never be able to afford to venture to Washington to view the originals.

Additionally, Lewis said the process to build a monument takes time, but that steps could be taken once the county agreed to support the project: suggesting, among other things a support letter from the county of the Charters of Freedom organization joining the Windsor/Bertie Chamber of Commerce, as well as establish a “Bertie County Charters of Freedom” bank account at a local branch. A steering committee would also be appointed by the county with various local leaders.

Chairman Wesson stated at the time that the Commissioners would review this proposal carefully, and that they would submit a response as soon as possible regarding interest in the project.

At the Monday meeting after there was no discussion, Commission vice-chair Tammy Lee made a motion to accept the Foundation Forward proposal and move ahead with the formation of a steering committee.

“I’m excited,” Lee said.

Commissioner Stewart White seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

“Let’s make sure we understand the steps they propose to go through,” said Wesson, “and we can take this back to the citizens so they can understand what commitment and involvement they are looking for to make this work.”

Lee requests that citizens volunteer for the steering committee so that the project may proceed.

“We’re going to need a committee,” she implored. “It’s a good opportunity to make something positive happen in Bertie County.”

In other business, the Commissioners voted to not purchase the Bertie County Board of Education property at 249 White Oak Road.

The 1,200 square foot residential structure is over a dozen years old and has been used as a teacher’s residence, a temporary home for an interim superintendent five years ago, and even as a meeting hall.

The Bertie County Board of Education declared the property as surplus at its October meeting and voted to offer it to the county at fair market value.  By law, before offering it elsewhere for sale, the school board must first offer the property to the county commissioners.

“The recommendation from our County Manager and the County Attorney is that we pass on this opportunity,” said Wesson. “It could be a great opportunity for someone but we don’t think it’s something that the county can use as a housing unit.”

Wesson said the property had possible commercial opportunities, but didn’t think the county wanted to be in that market.

Lee made the motion to not accept the school board’s offer, seconded by Commissioner Ernestine Byrd Bazemore, and the motion passed unanimously.