SOUTHINGTON — Dozens of residents spoke for and against a Christopher Columbus statue during a public hearing Monday night.
Renewed controversy over public statues led town leaders to hold the hearing via video conference.
In addition to nearly 150 people who took part in the meeting by phone or computer, Town Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano said more than 120 sent in letters on the topic.
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 town residents protested. Italian-American social clubs paid for the monument.
The council didn’t take action on the statue Monday night. Democratic councilors suggested forming a committee that’ll study the issue and which would include people on both sides of the debate.
Speakers during the public hearing addressed the question of whether to move the statue and other cultural issues.
Dorie Conlon Perugini said she has Puerto Rican ancestors and that the Columbus statue doesn’t represent anything “good” to her. She cited atrocities mentioned in Columbus’ diary perpetrated against natives of the Caribbean.
Walking by the statue on the way to government offices gives her “a feeling of not being welcomed and oppression.”
“This statue is more than just a statue,” Conlon Perugini said.
Another speaker, Brian Corbino, was on the other side of the debate.
“This debate is not about this statue, it’s not about Christopher Columbus. It’s about whether or not we should be allowed to have history at all,” he said. “Those who would remove it are doing so with ill intent,”
Alicia Novi, a Democrat and Zoning Board of Appeals vice chairwoman, said the statue should be removed. She questioned whether the council would now have to approve any group that wanted to erect a privately-funded monument on public land.
“What’s to say 10 more people come forward and want a statue on town property?” she said.
Michael Kryzanski said the statue was already “settled business” after local groups were given unanimous approval by the council to erect it.
“The money has already been spent. Columbus is a symbol of Southington’s Italian heritage,” he said.
In Meriden, city officials are considering the removal of a Christopher Columbus monument in front of City Hall. Sonya Jelks, a Democratic councilor, is finding out what it would cost to move the stone monument. No resolution has been brought to the council yet on the matter, according to Mayor Kevin Scarpati.