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NORRISTOWN — A notice to request proposals to relocate and store monuments located outside of the Montgomery County Courthouse in downtown Norristown caused a bit of a stir during last week’s Montgomery County Commissioners meeting.

“These are monuments that are historic,” said Commissioner Joe Gale. “These are monuments that are related to fallen police officers that made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and these are all the types of monuments that are being destroyed across the country in current times.”

Gale expressed reservations over instances of "monuments being vandalized and destroyed and removed." He added that he's heard from area residents with surrounding similar worries how it "could very well be a reality."

According to Barbara O’Malley, Montgomery County’s deputy chief operating officer, the initiative’s purpose would “provide relocation and storage of monuments located in Hancock Square during the construction phase of the justice center project.”

While the advertisement related to work set to be done in the county seat was narrowly approved, Gale took issue with several aspects of the preliminary request and the overall construction project.

In addition to receiving comments from his constituents “voicing concerns associated with the moving of monuments,” Gale said the expense of a “nearly half a billion dollar campus plan” was untimely.

He added there’s been a financial strain on taxpayers and business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“...It’s my fear that due to the economic conditions and the high cost of this project at the county campus it could lead to a possible future tax increase,” Gale said.

He opted that county leaders take a step back and press pause on the project.

“I’m very cautious that moving forward with this construction is not an appropriate time to do so and at this point it's not too late to discuss the deferred start date of this construction project because we haven’t started construction, we haven’t broke[n] any ground and we haven’t even moved the monuments yet at this point.”

However, the authority to advertise a request for proposal was granted in a 2-1 roll call vote, with Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh and Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr., both Democrats, endorsing the matter. Republican Gale was the sole dissenter.

While on the topic of the justice center project, county leaders approved several contract awards including a $207,000 agreement with Gannett Fleming Inc. of Camp Hill.

The county’s Department of Assets and Infrastructure requested “engineering services” in order to “document and monitor buildings surrounding the Justice Center construction project site,” according to the contract award.

Additionally, the commissioners authorized contract agreements pertaining to the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

In other business, a three-year agreement not exceeding $64,050.30 was awarded to Millstone Township, N.J.’s Safeguard Document Destruction Inc. for “shredding services” needed “for the pick-up and on-site shredding of confidential documents at county office buildings,” the contract description stated. The contract also includes two “optional annual renewal terms.”

The county’s planning commission entered into a $58,894 agreement with Gilmore & Associates, of New Britain, for “engineering services” and use of “on-call engineers” after receiving authorization from elected leaders.

County officials previously retained the New Britian firm following the passing of an Oct. 17, 2019 resolution for “a field survey, structural assistance and contraction drawings [and] bid documents for the Canopy Structure for the Norfolk Southern Railroad underpass and the Byberry Road trail crossing,” according to the contract description.

The planning commission needed funding for additional assistance to obtain “ the addition of a detailed construction plan for the trail corridor, staking of the trail corridor alignment, [the] design of a waterproof membrane for the bridge structure over the tributary to Southampton creek, [the] review of shop drawing, and on-site construction management services,” the contract stated.

The nearly $59,000 contract item with the existing company was augmented to not exceed $140,002.

The next Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 23.

@rachelravina on Twitter

Rachel Ravina is a journalist covering news and lifestyle features in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Blue Bell and graduated from Penn State. She's also a news enthusiast who is passionate about covering topics people want to read.

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