County Extends Opening Date For The Earl Scruggs Center
At a work session on January 22, 2013, County Commissioners discuss the delay in opening the Earl Scruggs Center. When the County Commissioners leased the Historic Courthouse to Destination Cleveland County on March 18, 2008, the agreement was that the Earl Scruggs Center would be operational within 60 months, by March 18, 2013. Now it is not going to happen.
When discussing the lease agreement’s 60-month deadline to have the Scruggs Center open, DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster told Commissioners that was just a tentative date DCC had given the Commissioners in their contract with Cleveland County.
Earl Scruggs Center Chairman, J.T. Scruggs explained that an opening date cannot be set until an order can be placed for the rest of the furnishings needed to open the center. And they still need money before they can place an order. DCC has been working with USDA regarding a loan for the remaining funds needed to finish the project.
Mr. Scruggs said that after talking with EDA, he feels strongly if DCC can give them a firm date within a reasonable period of time, they will extend the grant.
He also said DCC has asked for an extension from the EDA and a spokesperson said, “Give me a date and I’ll consider it.” He said the person may have leeway to make decisions.
Commissioner Jason Falls asked if there was any way the Center can open just to meet the criteria of the grant. J.T. Scruggs said there is a possibility to close the grant without the opening date, but if DCC were to close the grant, they would not get the $500,000 left to be paid by EDA, therefore they would be unable to finish exhibit fabrication.
Mr. Scruggs explained to Commissioners that renovations of the courthouse cost a little over $2.2 million, and in order to get the figure up to $3 million, DCC could get half of it-($1.5 million)-from the EDA grant, DCC had to add in the exhibit fabrication as part of the renovations, and that the $528,221 balance to come from the EDA grant still goes against renovations.
DCC would like to open the Earl Scruggs Center by the end of 2013, and if they had the money in hand, Mr. Scruggs claims it would take approximately six months to open.
Commissioner Eddie Holbrook said, “From a Commissioners standpoint, we need to be as cooperative as we can. If we legislate a timetable, it could come back from EDA in a negative way.”
Commissioner Ronnie Hawkins said that once DCC receives its loan and talks with EDA, the date of the extension of the EDA grant should be the date of the extension of the Lease Agreement with Cleveland County.
The Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the DCC lease ninety days from March 18, 2013 [to June 18, 2013] and asked that DCC come back and give Commissioners a firm opening date after the EDA grant has been extended.
County Commissioners Establish Cleveland County Historical Collections Policy Concerning The Artifacts Taken From The Cleveland County Historical Museum
At their meeting on February 19, 2013, County Commissioners discuss their new policy regarding access to the artifacts that have been given to the Cleveland County Historical Museum, and now Commissioners consider them to be the property of Cleveland County since the county claims the artifacts were abandoned in the courthouse.
Following this train of reasoning, if the County Commissioners say the artifacts now belong to the county, they belong to the taxpayers. But the public has not had an opportunity to see the artifacts since the Cleveland County Historical Museum closed in 2004. In fact, freshmen in high school have not had an opportunity to see these historical relics since they began public school in the first grade.
Just to give an example of the jumping through hoops the public must do now to have access to the artifacts, now that they have been taken by the county from the closed Cleveland County Historical Museum that was waiting for renovations so that it could be reopened, and given by County Commissioners into the hands of Destination Cleveland County in 2006:
Citizens Ask County Commissioner’s Permission To Photograph Artifacts
In August 2011, a group of three senior citizens asked Commissioner Johnny Hutchins to take them to the storage facility where the artifacts are located to photograph a few artifacts.
Prior to the scheduled visit, Annmarie Reiley-Kay, curator of the artifacts at the facility, who is paid with county funds but reports to DCC, calls and warns that she has to take the photographs so that the county will own them, and that the citizens must sign a document that states the uses the county allows for the photographs, and that the photos cannot be used for profit.
One of the photographs needed- a picture of a metal barrel that houses a time capsule that will be opened in 2041 at the county’s Bi-Centennial- is to be used by one of the citizens in a history documentary for sale to benefit a local high school class reunion.
Another citizen wants a photograph of a writing kit for a descendant of the donor.
A third photograph requested is by a descendant of John R. Logan, who wants a picture of the transit that Mr.Logan used to lay out the streets of Shelby.
Commissioner Hutchins says he doesn’t see why the citizens can’t take a picture of the artifacts and use it for whatever they want.
On the day of the scheduled visit to the storage facility, Assistant County Manager Eddie Bailes meets the group with a contract to sign. He says this is what Commissioner Hutchins and County Manager David Dear told him to do. The group did not sign the contract and they did not get to take the photographs.
Commissioner Hutchins said he would take the group back another day. On the appointed day, the John R. Logan descendent could not go. The other two citizens desiring photographs go to the facility and are met by Commissioner Hutchins, Commissioner Jason Falls, and Assistant County Manager Eddie Bailes. Along with Curator Annmarie Reiley-Kay, they supervise as they allow two Kodak snapshots of the metal barrel to be taken. The Curator takes the picture of the writing kit at a later time and mails it. The citizens are not asked to sign a contract at that time.
Cleveland County Historical Collections Policy 8 Page Document And Who Enforces It
This document was developed by the Curator of Collections, County staff, and the Museum Archival Committee before being presented to Commissioners. The Curator of Collections is Annmarie Reiley-Kay, who is paid with county funds given to Destination Cleveland County for this purpose, and she reports to DCC. The Museum Archival Committee is appointed by the County Commissioners. The three members are Melani Wray, Wanda Crotts, and Libby Sarazen. They have served on the Museum Archival Committee since 2008.
At the February 19, 2013 Commissioners Meeting, Museum Archival Committee member Melani Wray presented a copy of the Cleveland County Historical Collections Policy to Commissioners.
The eight-page document outlines the scopes and uses of the museum collection and states that “Cleveland County maintains and cares for the 15,000 artifacts in its historical collection and in order to care for the collection properly, Cleveland County will no longer be accepting artifacts to its pre-existing collection.”
What it does not state is that Destination Cleveland County is now accepting artifacts and their artifacts are being stored at the same storage facility as the county artifacts, and the Curator of Collections, Annmarie Reiley-Kay, is paid by the county and reports to Destination Cleveland County. So the county is paying for the storage of DCC’s property and paying a curator to care for them. The way her salary is paid, the county pays DCC $45,000 per year and DCC pays the money to Annmarie.
The historical collections policy document defines the terms of loaning the artifacts. “They may be lent to any institution which meets the “American Association of Museums’ definition of a museum (i.e., a nonprofit institution essentially educational or aesthetic in purpose, with professional or volunteer staff, and capable of maintaining objects.” DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster said they plan for the Earl Scruggs Center to qualify for American Association Museum status.
“Outgoing loans will be for periods of not more than 5 years, though the loan agreement may be renewed on a five-year basis should the borrowing institution or Cleveland County require the artifacts for a longer term. All loans will be presented by the Curator of Collections, and renewed by the Museum Archival Committee.”
“Cleveland County will permit photographs to be taken of items from the permanent collection under controlled conditions. Photograph duplications and photos of collection objects will not be made for publication or with the intent of reproducing the object without specific written permission from Cleveland County. Anyone requesting for duplication of an object must state, in writing, what the intended use of the materials is for.
Staff reserves the right to deny the right to duplicate objects from the collection if it is deemed that the use is not appropriate.”
“De-accessioning is the process by which an object, artifact, or biological specimen is permanently removed from the collection.”
“All who request access to collections not on exhibit are required to complete the access to collections form, stating their purpose and type of access requested. Authorization for access will lie at the discretion of the Curator of Collections. Refusal may be appealed to the Board of Commissioners.”
Commissioner Susan Allen made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Eddie Holbrook, and unanimously adopted by the Board to approve the Cleveland County Historical Collections Policy.
It should be noted that Destination Cleveland County invited the public to the storage facility at the old Hunter School on August 7, 2010, to view the artifacts. At that time, they had been down there at the storage facility since they were moved from the courthouse on May 2-3, 2008, more than two years before. The artifacts were stacked on shelves, and packed into boxes, in a warehouse setting.
County Commissioners Add An Addendum To The Destination Cleveland County Lease Agreement For The Earl Scruggs Center
At their April 2, 2013 meeting, County Commissioners say that DCC wants to change three things on the lease for the old courthouse to be used for the Earl Scruggs Center.
They want to extend the date for the Earl Scruggs Center to be completed and operational to December 31, 2013, as they got an extension from the EDA grant to December 7, 2013.
1. They want to change the amount of free time for Cleveland County residents to tour the Earl Scruggs Center from 8 hours per week to one day per week, as they are only going to be open for 30 hours per week.
2. They want to change the name from Earl Scruggs Center: Songs and Stories of the Carolina Foothills to Earl Scruggs Center: Music and Stories from the American South.
County Manager Eddie Bailes said all other items in the lease are in full force and effect. J.T. Scruggs was in attendance for Destination Cleveland County.
Only three commissioners were present: Ronnie Hawkins, Johnny Hutchins, and Susan Allen. The vote to approve DCC’s request was unanimous.
Destination Cleveland County Requests To Borrow $700,000 From USDA Rural Development
Destination Cleveland County announced in The Star on June 10, 2013, that a public hearing will be held on June 20, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. in the reception area of the Don Gibson Theatre by the Board of Destination Cleveland County, Inc. for the purpose of receiving public comment on the furnishing of the Earl Scruggs Center.
DCC is considering a loan from USDA Rural Development for $700,000 for the development of this project, so holding a public hearing was part of “formalizing” the loan. With it being a federal loan, there was a requirement that an advertisement had to run in the newspaper.
According to County financial records, Cleveland County released Check #227119 for $100,000 on May 8, 2013, to Destination Cleveland County per DCC’s request as an advance on the loan of $755,400 they borrowed from the County on December 18, 2013. This loan was made on the contingency that DCC could get a second loan of $633,000 from a lending agency, and DCC could get EDA to extend their grant that required the opening day of the Earl Scruggs Center to be April 7, 2013. It was agreed between DCC representative J.T. Scruggs and the County Commissioners at the December 18, 2013, County Commissioners Meeting that the $755,400 loan money could not be touched until the second loan had been secured by DCC and the extended date was approved by EDA.
EDA extended the opening date of the Earl Scruggs Center to December 7, 2013, and the County Commissioners extended the opening date to December 31, 2013.
For the shortfall DCC needed to open- the second loan of $633,000- DCC applied to USDA for $700,000. As of July 8, 2013, the USDA confirmed that the loan is not active as of yet.
So why was a $100,000 “advance” check given by the County to DCC before the USDA activated the second loan to DCC? If the second loan had been secured, wouldn’t it have said the $100,000 disbursed by Cleveland County on May 8, 2013, was a “draw” on the loan and not an “advance”? If DCC had a second loan (the loan with USDA) secured, would they have written in the June 10, 2013 newspaper advertisement of the upcoming public hearing that they are “considering a loan from USDA Rural Development”?
USDA Approves $700,000 Loan To Destination Cleveland Counyt
USDA approved the $700,000 to DCC in July to purchase several large and elaborate displays and interactive exhibits for the Earl Scruggs Center. The collateral for the loan includes a financial statement on the equipment, an assignment of income, and a promissory note.
Where Did Destination Cleveland County’s $6.5 Million For The Earl Scruggs Center Come From?
The information below was given on the loan application received by USDA from DCC on March 22, 2013. Added to this information is the approved $700,000 loan from USDA.
USDA Loan $700,000
NC Department of Commerce $1,543,000
NC Rural Center $100,000
Golden LEAF Foundation $250,000
NC Department of Cultural Resources $20,000
City of Shelby $200,000
Cleveland County $1,500,000
Private Donors and Foundations $2,187,000
Total Project Cost: $6,500.000
Destination Cleveland County Board of Directors July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014 Brownie Plaster, Chair Adelaide Craver, Vice Chair John Schweppe, III, Secretary/ Theatre Committee Co-Chair Trip Boinest, Theatre Committee Co-Chair Robin Smith, Treasurer J. T. Scruggs, Scruggs Center Chair Linda Horn, Events Co-Chair Myra Dixon, Events Co-Chair Shannon Kennedy, Communications Chair Millie Wood, History Co-Chair Jeff Powell, History Co-Chair Al Dunkleman
Stan Anthony (Mayor of Shelby)
July 9, 2013 Cleveland County Commissioners Meeting Minutes-
ORDINANCE CHANGE FOR LEASED PROPERTY (SECTION 6-1 (a)
ACTION: Johnny Hutchins made the motion, seconded by Susan Allen, and unanimously adopted by the Board, to approve the following change to the Cleveland County Code of Ordinances:
ORDINANCE NO. 01-2013
AN ORDINANCE OF CLEVELAND COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA,
AMENDING SEC. 6-1 (a) OF CHAPTER 6 OF THE CODE OF
ORDINANCES OF CLEVELAND COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA,
BY ADDING A NEW SENTENCE TO SAID SEC. 6-1 (a)
WHEREAS, The Board of Commissioners of Cleveland County,
North Carolina, find it to be in the best interests of the citizens and residents
of Cleveland County to add an additional exception to Sec. 6-1 (a) of the
Code of Ordinances;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE BOARD OF
COMMISSIONERS OF CLEVELAND COUNTY, NORTH
CAROLINA that the Code of Ordinances is hereby amended as follows:
Section 1: The following sentence shall be added to Sec. 6-1 (a):
“This section shall also not apply to the property leased to Destination
Cleveland County, Inc. and known as The Earl Scruggs Center: Music
and Stories from the American South.”
Section 2: This ordinance shall be effective as of the date of its adoption.
DCC Sets Opening Date For Earl Scruggs Center For January 11, 2014,
An article in The Star on August 29, 2013, tells that Destination Cleveland County has announced January 11, 2014 will be the opening day of the Earl Scruggs Center.
DCC representative J. T. Scruggs says that the center itself is expected to open to visitors in late November or early December 2013.
DCC officials said $2.5 million has been put into the renovation of the building. They say the county and other agencies have helped with funding, but nearly 50 percent of the support has come from private local donors.
January 11, 2014, the grand opening will include an evening event, “Remembering Earl: Music & Stories,” at Shelby High School’s Malcolm Brown Auditorium, featuring nationally recognized artists.
The Earl Scruggs Center will be open free to county residents on Wednesdays.
[This free day is required by Term #15. Hours of Operation of the Lease Agreement- Once the Center to be located in the leased property is operational, the Lessee agrees to keep the Center open to the public and fully operational for a minimum of thirty (30) hours per week. The Lessee shall designate at least eight (8) hours of the Center’s operating schedule for free admission to Cleveland County residents. Term #15. was amended on April 2, 2013. They want to change the amount of free time for Cleveland County residents to tour the Earl Scruggs Center from 8 hours per week to one day per week, as they are only going to be open for 30 hours per week.]
In September 2013, DCC announces that Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, and Earl Scruggs’ sons Gary and Randy are among the musicians who will perform at January 11, 2014, grand opening, along with award-winning dobro player Rob Ikes and award-winning banjo player Jim Mills. Tickets will go on sale in mid-October. By the first of December, the performance is sold out.
An article in The Star on December 3, 2013 states that according to DCC officials, standard Earl Scruggs Center hours will begin January 2, 2014, and doors are still expected to open before the end of 2013. “It’ll be open by the end of the year and then certainly starting January 2 will be our standard operation hours Wednesday through Sunday,” DCC Executive Director Emily Epley said.
Brownie Plaster, DCC Chairwoman said the center’s “soft opening” would be quiet, but that it would be open by the end of the year.
DCC Violates The Terms Of The Lease Extension For The Earl Scruggs Center
EDA extended the Earl Scruggs Center opening date to December 7, 2013. Cleveland County Commissioners extended it to December 31, 2013. There was no announcement of a public opening of any kind in December 2013.
The Earl Scruggs Center was slated to officially begin standard hours on January 2, 2014. The Star was invited to tour the Earl Scruggs Center on Friday, January 3, 2014. DCC officials unveiled the Earl Scruggs Center signs that morning at 11.45 a.m. The Earl Scruggs Center was closed on Saturday, January 4. The grand opening was held on January 11, 2014.
DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster’s Journey To The Earl Scruggs Center
DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster’s journey to the Earl Scruggs Center began when she was a member of Jim Allen’s committee to create the Southern Music Heritage Museum to be located inside the Cleveland County Historical Museum at the Historic Courthouse. Musicians were to include Don Gibson, Snuffy Jenkins, Smith Hammett, and many others in addition to Earl Scruggs. Jim Allen publicly announced that dream in 2003, gathered his committee, and first met in early 2004. The County was on board and even paid for the initial designs in 2005. Brownie Plaster was a latecomer to Jim Allen’s group.
Louise Scruggs became adamant to have the building honor her husband and have Don Gibson honored in another venue. Louise Scruggs was Earl Scruggs’ manager, and she wanted to broker the best deal for him.
Brownie Plaster was among those of Jim Allen’s group who wanted to honor Louise Scruggs’ wishes. This group became Destination Cleveland County and got the support of both the City of Shelby and Cleveland County governments as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
Brownie Plaster has never publicly acknowledged Jim Allen’s part of the music heritage before Destination Cleveland County took over. She refers to the former courthouse as a failed museum.
She begins the story of her journey to the Earl Scruggs Center in 2006 when Destination Cleveland County started.
In an article from Tennessean.com, a Nashville newspaper on January 12, 2014, written by Peter Cooper On Music: Earl Scruggs’ legacy helps rejuvenate his hometown,’ the writer says, “the county court moved from the location in 1974, replaced by a historical museum that languished and failed. It was locked up in 2004, and the most beautiful building young Earl Scruggs had ever seen became something less than beautiful. A consultant came from NC State University, supposedly to talk about how to care for the closed museum’s artifacts.
“He said, ‘We can’t talk about that, we need to talk about your town: This place is dying,”’ said Brownie Plaster, chairwoman of Destination Cleveland County, a group whose name drew snickers from locals who thought Cleveland County would never become a destination for travelers.
Plaster’s group though envisioned an uptown Shelby that embraces and marketed its history. In 2006, they contacted the
“We brought Gary and Earl here in ’06,” Plaster said. “We hadn’t taken care of our own stuff, but we were wanting the family to entrust Earl Scruggs’ legacy to us. We had to build trust.”
What she fails to mention is that this journey began long before she took over. This article is typical of the journey to the Earl Scruggs Center as told by Brownie Plaster.