The Marshall County Fiscal Court began discussions Friday on a draft policy on the approved use of county facilities and grounds, addressing issues ranging from public demonstrations to monuments and structures currently displayed.
The policy discussion comes against a backdrop of protests across the country, including in Marshall County, over police use of force, particularly involving African Americans, and efforts to remove monuments relating to the Civil War.
Judge-Executive Kevin Neal said the policy is needed to comply with state statutes and clarify the fiscal court’s role in managing and controlling public property.
“Obviously, this is a draft,” Neal said, as discussion began. “The intent is to get this drafted because we really don’t have any policy in place.”
Currently, if a controversy arises regarding use of county property, Neal said the issue ultimately comes to his office.
“The way we’ve always done it (the judge-executive deciding), apparently that doesn’t work very well,” he said.
“If there’s something controversial, they (fiscal court members) ought to be able to vote on it, and they also are held accountable for it. I think that’s just fair to everybody.”
The Jerry English Veterans Plaza at Mike Miller Park is to be managed (events, monuments, flags, etc.) by an informal committee of Marshall County veterans, under the draft, with the county having final approval.
The policy “does not apply to any monuments and/or structures that have been displayed on any county facility or grounds” prior to its adoption by the county.
In addition, the county “does hereby expressly state that existing monuments and structures that are standing” as of the date the policy is adopted are approved by the county.
The policy defines non-public forums, such as office spaces, intended to allow county business to be conducted, and limited and traditional public forums (such as sidewalks, a parking lot at a park), available to the public.
Activities that are permitted on limited and traditional public forums, “when and where reasonable,” include:
• Distribution of leaflets, flyers or other written publications.
• Distribution and circulation of petitions to collect signatures.
• Public demonstrations.
• Verbal demonstrations conveying information other than county business, or other similarly protected free speech activities.
Permitted activities can’t be held closer than 25 feet from all public entrances to county grounds and must not interfere with citizen access to county facilities, according to the draft.
Signs or displays posted without permission will be removed and disposed of, including (but not limited to) statues, monuments, flags, and yard signs.
Any graffiti (chalking, painting, drawing) would be subject to immediate removal and possible prosecution (criminal mischief), under the policy.