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Name change suggested for Robert E. Lee Center as town pursues grant funding

South Boston News
Chase City’s Robert E. Lee Community Center / September 30, 2020
The Town of Chase City is being prodded to rename the former Robert E. Lee Elementary School building on Second Street as it pursues grant funding to rehabilitate the nearly 90-year old structure.

Town Manager Dusty Forbes told members of Town Council last week that the arm of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that authorizes historic rehabilitative grants recommended the name change to improve Chase City’s chances of receiving the money.

The department suggested two alternate names, the Earle Davis Gregory Building or Chase City Performing Arts Center. The first of the suggested names is a nod to one of only two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from Mecklenburg County, while the other would highlight the 500-seat auditorium inside the building that is used by the town to host concerts and other large events.

Forbes did not identify whom he spoke with from the Department of Historic Resources (DHR), but he relayed their view that renaming the property would show that the town is sensitive to the message sent to some of its citizens by having a building named for a Confederate general.

The request was not warmly received at the Sept. 21 meeting of Town Council, though few spoke in favor or against the idea. In the end, Council members agreed to survey town residents before deciding whether to change the building’s name.

The Town of Chase City has applied for historic district designation for much of its downtown area, which includes the Robert E. Lee building. This designation, if approved by DHR, not only encourages the preservation of properties in the district but offers property owners the opportunity to qualify for state and federal rehabilitation tax credits, DHR’s easement program, and grants administered through DHR.

Former Mayor Eddie Bratton asked the town to move its annual “Trunk or Treat” Halloween event to the South Central Fairgrounds this year and turn it into a drive-thru event. He said the change was needed to protect the health and safety of the hundreds of people who attend the celebration in downtown Chase City every year.

Council members agreed to look into the move.

This would not be a permanent change but one time due to the pandemic. Speaking for the fire department, Marshall “Tommy” Whitaker promised the department would participate. The town’s volunteer fire department members give out free hotdogs and drinks during the event. Whitaker said they could easily hand out the food to those who drive up.

Council reviewed the list of items approved for purchase with the CARES Act funding the Town has received. Congress established a $150 billion coronavirus relief fund as part of the CARES Act to support state, local, and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Mecklenburg County received around $5 million in CARES Act money and allocated a portion of it to each town to cover the cost of COVID-19 related expenses.

The towns were asked to submit a list of suggested purchases to a committee that included representation from the firefighters, police and EMS, as well as the county’s Emergency Services Coordinator Jon Taylor, Economic Development Director Angie Kellett, two members of the Board of Supervisors, Tom Tanner and Andy Hargrove, and Tourism Coordinator Tina Morgan.

An expense is considered eligible for CARES Act money if:

» The expense is COVID related.

» The expense is necessary.

» The expense being submitted is not filling a shortfall in revenue that was intended to cover expenditures that would otherwise not qualify.

» The expense is for a substantially different purpose than originally intended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

» The expense was not in the budget approved as of March 27.

The intent of CARES Act grant funding is to cover direct costs incurred by local governments and their communities as a result of the unprecedent circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic

Chase City’s requests for PPE, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer were approved, as were its requests to cover the cost of COVID-19 related medical equipment such as CPAP masks used to help COVID-19 patients breathe and construction supplies used to create protective barriers inside public buildings. Other approved items included expenditures to install automatic door openers on public buildings, new meeting agenda software and new computers for remote workers.

Items not approved included new furniture for the rescue squad and several items which the County said it provided, such as air packs for the fire department and a ventilator for the EMS squad.

In other business, Council approved a change to the way it conducts business. It will no longer separately discuss and vote on routine business reports and agenda items such as Council minutes, reports from town departments, bills paid and charge-offs and reports to Council regarding the operating budget. Instead, these items will be approved as one action part of a consent agenda.

The mayor can ask if any items need to be removed from the consent agenda so that it may be discussed later in the meeting. Only one council member is needed to remove an item from the consent agenda.

Council also approved, as a first reading, a change to the town ordinances to prohibit doo-to-door sales within the town limits. According to Forbes, the change is designed to protect unsuspecting homeowners from burglars and scam artists who present themselves as door-to-door salesmen and commit crimes once they gain entry to the home.

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SO Stupid! No one will be happy until all southern heritage is changed! Do they realize that white people were slaves too? Does anyone ever pick up a history book??? No?? Didn't think so!


Here's a revolutionary idea...How about not naming ANY building in honor of ANY person. We are all created equal under God so why is there this incessant need to recognize and memorialize any single individual on a public building. This practice needs to go away NOW!!!!


Just imagine the outrage if a government agency suggested dropping MLK's name off of a building. This is nothing but another assault on something named for a European Southerner. This crap needs to stop. Maybe we need to remove ALL names off of EVERYTHING.


I went to school there in the 60s i remember when the school were integrated. i dont live in Chase city any more . but when i drive by there .i have a lot of fond memories. i have always felt very proud to say i went to a school named after such a GREAT man. Robert E Lee


Traitor to the Union Robert E Lee still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property


Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia enslaved free black Americans and brought them back to the South as property.

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