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City Council Approves Financial Settlement with English Construction

By Susan Larson. Photo: Dovetail Cultural Resource Group President and Principal Investigator Dr. Kerri Barile (left) and former Fredericksburg mayor Bill Beck (right) examine artifacts at the former site of Prince Hall Lodge on Sophia St. in Fredericksburg, Va. on Oct. 23, 2015. Copyright Robert A. Martin for Fredericksburg.Today

Lynchburg, Va., based English Construction will pay $3,000 in fines for violations of city regulations and $23,957.50 in settlement for unauthorized excavation at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge / Riverfront Park site on Sophia St. in October 2015.

City Council voted 5 – 2 on December 8 to accept the settlement brokered by City Manager Bev Cameron. Councilmen Matt Kelly (At-Large) and Charlie Frye (Ward 4) voted against the measure.

English Construction removed a large portion of an earthen mound within the proposed Riverfront Park, unearthing human remains. The area had been deemed archaeologically sensitive. Cameron called it ““a really terrible miscommunication”.

Dovetail Cultural Resource Group subsequently located “additional human remains” and thousands of historically significant artifacts from what was left of the mound.

The $23,957.50 settlement amount is “100 percent of the cost of the archaeological work pertaining to burial removal,” Cameron said. “While the archaeologists were on site, we authorized them to perform additional services that would have been necessary [for the building of Riverfront Park],” Cameron said. The city spent a total of $48,880 on the archaeological study of what remained of the mound.

“It’s a fair and equitable agreement,” said Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw. “Most of the $48,880 is what we [the city] had to spend anyway,” she said.

“This doesn’t come close to what they did to that site,” said Councilor Kelly. “The amount of loss to the city in its history … we will never have the opportunity to look at, evaluate and tell the story because it’s gone,” he said. “At a minimum English Construction should pay the full bill [for the archaeology study],” he said.

Kelly was also angered that it “took weeks” for English Construction to tell the city where they’d taken the dirt they had excavated. By the time they did, dirt from other projects had already been added, ruining any chance of recovering it for archaeological review.

“It’s a sobering loss for the city,” Councilor Tim Duffy (Ward 3) agreed.

Councilor Brad Ellis (Ward 1) wanted it noted that he had wanted the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge preserved.

English Construction Company Inc., established in 1909, is a fourth generation family owned business, “experts in excavation and site prep” and “masters of historic renovations and restorations,” according to its website. The company is licensed in eight states in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, with its primary work in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

English Construction’s other Fredericksburg projects include the Fredericksburg Regional Transit & Maintenance Facility, the Fredericksburg Courthouse completed in March 2015, and the just awarded $12 million contract for renovation of the Original Walker–Grant School. The school renovation is by FirstChoice, a partnership between Moseley Architects and English Construction.

Previous Stories
Additional Human Remains, Thousands of Artifacts Recovered from Riverfront Park Site

“Miscommunication” Damages Archaeologically Sensitive Area and Unearths Human Remains

Riverfront Park Plan Downsized from $20M to $5M

Preservation Group Opposes Plans for National Bank Building Property

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