Wrapped in moving blankets in the basement of Hall County’s Courthouse Annex, a grand statue of the late Frances Meadows sits alone.
The statue has been there among the other dusty relics in storage since the night it was unveiled at the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ last meeting of 2008.
That night at the Georgia Mountains Center, the larger-than-life representation of the beloved commissioner seemed as though it was dressed for the occasion in a floor-length dress, jacket and earrings.
Meadows left behind a legacy as Hall County’s first black commissioner when she died in 2002 at age 59 of leukemia during her third term as the county’s District 4 commissioner.
Though the statue was originally intended to be displayed at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center, there are no plans to move it there anytime soon and nobody seems to know why.
On Feb. 14, 2008, the commission voted unanimously to have the statue made. At the time, Meadow’s eponymous community center would soon open, and the county was set to fund a memorial in her honor.
According to the meeting minutes, commission Chairman Tom Oliver “requested that Commissioner (Deborah) Mack work with him to create a memorial for Ms. Meadows to be placed at the center. Chairman Oliver then motioned to dedicate from $10,000 to $25,000 in funding for this memorial.”
Oliver said that following the vote, the commission didn’t do much with the production of the Meadows memorial.
Oliver said Sammy Smith, a member of the Gainesville Board of Education and a close friend of Meadows’, approached him with the idea and handled the production of the statue.
“I kind of signed off on it and we didn’t get involved in the details,” Oliver said. “It was just one of those situations. I’m not sure we did our homework the way we should have on that project.”
Smith said the situation was out of his hands.
“Frankly, I don’t want to comment on it,” Smith said. “It was given to the city of Gainesville. That’s the last I heard.”
Mack was unavailable for comment last week.
County Administrator Charley Nix said he hadn’t spoken to anyone about the statue’s destination, either. Its creation was approved before he became administrator in November 2008.
“It is in our building here,” Nix said. “It’s downstairs, just in safekeeping. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had any conversations about determining what the appropriate place or location is for that. It might be worth me asking a few questions.”
From day one, the statue was meant to be placed in the Meadows center, a Gainesville facility, but city officials say they have no knowledge of it.
“The only time I’ve seen it was when I was watching (the commission meeting) on TV 18,” said Melvin Cooper, director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation, who oversees the Meadows center. “It was a county project so I have no idea what happened to it, where it is, who’s got it or anything.”
Cooper said Gainesville paid for a bronze plaque that now sits in front of the center. It features a bust of Meadows and a small biography, and cost about $2,000.
“It was something the City Council approved in consultation with the Frances Meadows family,” Cooper said.
Mayor Myrtle Figueras said she was never consulted about the statue, either.
“There was no communication at all. Not even one word,” Figueras said.
Hall Commissioner Ashley Bell, whose district includes Gainesville, said the statue symbolizes the poor relations between the city and the county.
“Nobody ever asked the people that built the Frances Meadows Center or run the Frances Meadows Center was it going to be a good fit,” Bell said. “That is the kind of communication lag with the city and the county far more times than I know everybody would like.”
According to invoices obtained from the county, the statue cost $12,500. Shape Formations Inc. in Lula created the Meadows statue.
Jim Reid, president of Shape Formations Inc., said he doesn’t understand why the statue was never displayed.
“They paid a good price for it so if they don’t put it to use somehow, it doesn’t seem like a very good use of the county’s money,” Reid said. “There was quite a bit of work that went into it.”
The statue is made of sculpted foam with a painted hard coating. It took about three months to complete, Reid said.
“It’s hard to figure politics, sometimes,” Reid said.
Bell, who was elected in 2008 to fill the seat once occupied by Meadows, said he thinks it’s a shame there wasn’t more communication before the statue was created.
“I think the family was not properly kept in the loop on the efforts and I think that was symbolized by the fact that when we unveiled it, the family was not there,” Bell said. “Although the intentions may have been right on, it looks like somebody dropped the ball as far as coordinating an effort that would honor the memory of Frances Meadows.”
Bell said he would like the county to come to a decision regarding the statue soon.
“Until then, I guess it will stay in the basement of the courthouse,” Bell said. “It’s a very unbecoming place for a statue of such a becoming woman.”