- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The group responsible for coming up with a plan to memorialize the final Confederate flag that flew over South Carolina’s Statehouse cut the display’s estimated cost by a third to less than $4 million at a sparsely attended meeting three days before Christmas.

The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum Commission didn’t decide to meet on Tuesday until late last week, and a short-staffed Relic Room staff posted notice of the meeting on the museum’s website and outside its door, Relic Room director Allen Roberson told The Associated Press.

While reporters from seven media outlets attended the first meeting, where a $5.3 million proposal to display the flag was made and received widespread criticism, no reporters attended Tuesday’s meeting where the commission approved a revised plan dropping several items and reducing the cost to $3.6 million.

That proposal will now be sent to the Legislature. As part of the deal to remove the flag this summer, lawmakers passed a proposal promising to give the final Confederate flag an “appropriate, permanent, and public display.”

Robeson said he was stunned so few people attended the meeting.

“I was scared there might be some issues the commissioners might have and I wanted that to play out in the open,” he said. “I go in there and there isn’t a soul in there except for the commissioners and a few people who heard about it and came.”

The lack of notice might have also broken the state’s new rules on public meetings. A law passed in June requires public agencies to tell people or organizations about the time and place of meetings when they request notification in advance. The Associated Press and other media organizations asked to be informed of the commission’s next meeting, although an AP reporter did not cite the law at the time.

“The irony of all this is we have been very thoughtful about keeping this in the sunshine. We know the interest,” Robeson said.

The new proposal still includes a case for the Confederate flag removed from the Statehouse on July 10 after lawmakers rushed to act following the deaths of nine black people in a Charleston church. Police said the attack was a racially-motivated killing. It also includes electronic displays that scroll the names of the 22,000 South Carolina soldiers who died serving the Confederacy as well as renovating a room to create a new wing to display other flags, uniforms and memorabilia the Relic Room currently has in storage, The State newspaper reported (https://bit.ly/22pPnGT ).

Items cut from the display include $700,000 to repair a leaky roof, $589,000 to convert a courtyard into a landscaped public space and $369,000 worth of construction work and extra features in the museum’s new wing, the newspaper reported.

Robeson promised to take more steps to get the word out about future meetings of the commission which was formed in July.

“In the future we will do more,” he said. “But I felt like we did what we had to do.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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Information from: The State, https://www.thestate.com

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