CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – After years of legal battles and delays, a contractor is expected to begin removing the Confederate monument from the front lawn of the Caddo Parish Courthouse sometime this year.

Caddo Communications Manager Krystle Beauchamp confirmed Thursday that a contract to relocate the monument was signed and filed Wednesday at the Caddo Parish Courthouse. The $782,000 contract with Florida-based Energy Products and Services Corp. calls for the removal to be completed no later than December 31, 2022.

“Now, the next steps are for parish administration to meet with the selected contractor and begin to build that timeline for what’s needed so we can begin that removal,” Beauchamp said. “So, as of right now, there is no official date to remove the monument.”

The marble and granite monument was erected between 1902 and 1906 on the grounds of the Caddo Parish Courthouse, which was built in 1926, where two previous courthouses stood. One of those original courthouses even served as the state capital of Louisiana during the Civil War.

The Caddo Commission originally voted to remove the monument back in 2017, setting off a legal battle with the Shreveport chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) over the monument itself and ownership of the land on which it stands. The UDC also claimed parish officials violated its rights to free speech and equal protection.

The UDC and the Caddo Parish Commission ultimately signed a settlement agreement in July 2020 in which the UDC gave ownership of the land on which the memorial sits to Caddo Parish. In exchange, Caddo Parish agreed that UDC owns the monument and that the Parish would foot the bill for its removal, transportation, and re-installation.

The parish commission initially approved spending up to $500,000 to cover the costs, but Beauchamp says they have since determined that it will cost more to move the monument and allocated more money. The UDC has cited an expert who said the 30-foot-tall marble and granite structure is very fragile and could cost $1.26 million to be taken down and moved safely.

As the Parish began the process of selecting a contractor to move the monument, the commission voted to erect a box around it to protect it and defuse racial tensions amid protests and counter-protests focused on the monument in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

The Civil War memorial has remained enclosed in that protective box ever since, with historical text added in December 2021 that includes the Gettysburg Address, God Bless America, The Pledge of Allegiance, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Bill of Rights, and the lyrics to the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

The Confederate monument will be moved to private property at the Pleasant Hill Battlefield site in southern De Soto Parish, where what is considered the bloodiest battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi was fought the day after the Battle of Mansfield.

The UDC declined to comment Thursday on news of the contract, saying they were not aware that one had been signed.