SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders want to hear residents’ opinions on the Christopher Columbus statue in front of the John Weichsel Municipal Center at a public hearing next month.
Chris Palmieri, a Democrat and Town Council minority leader, suggested the public hearing. His idea was unanimously approved Monday night by the council, which has a Republican majority.
“We’ve received a lot of communication from the public. It’s not unique to our community,” Palmieri said. “I think it’s important to offer the public an opportunity to speak for or against the statue.”
Councilors said they prefer not to vote on the statue on the night of the public hearing, scheduled for July 13 at 7 p.m. Michael DelSanto, a council Republican, said he’d like to just “listen, learn and digest” without taking action that night.
The council unanimously approved the placement of a Columbus bust in front of the Municipal Center on North Main Street in 2015. When the bust was set to be erected two years later, some residents protested. Local Italian-American civic groups raised the money for the bust.
Four people spoke about the statue during public comment Monday, two for keeping the statue and two for moving it.
Susan Zabohonski questioned why the council was again spending time on the issue. She also predicted that a public hearing on the issue would heighten division.
“It’s almost inflammatory in my opinion, causing a divide in the community,” she said. “My concern is it just keeps coming up over and over and over again.”
Anna Terrill started an online petition to remove the statue from public property. She said Monday that there wasn’t enough time to elaborate on Columbus’ atrocities against Caribbean natives. She said recent events have caused “many to reconsider our relationship with our history.”
“It’s on public property and I don’t feel it represents the spirit of our town,” Terrill said.