Earl Scruggs Center — Booming or Busted??? Decide for Yourself

Facts provided by Robert A. Williams

Facts are facts and Lies are lies. And Cleveland County Commissioners, there IS a difference!!

OK folks, the Earl Scruggs Center in the Old Courthouse building opened it’s doors for business in January, 2014 amid a thunderstorm. But there have been plenty of sunny days ever since. By now we should have a good idea if the Earl Scruggs Center is on track to bring $220 million over ten years into Cleveland County as the Gardner Webb School of Business said or will it ever make enough money to pay the light bill???

First, some history.

• The Historic Museum that was previously housed in the Old Courthouse. The museum closed down about 10 years ago for repair to the building. While the Museum was closed for building repair, an embezzlement was discovered in the Museum books. As usual in Cleveland County, the embezzler was not prosecuted vigorously by the Bill Young/Rick Shaffer District Attorney regime and the historic committee in charge and the Commissioners never pushed to reopen the historic museum. The Old Courthouse Building remained shut down for several years.
• Destination Cleveland County was formed as an economic development sort of enterprise to restore the Old Courthouse and several other historic properties in uptown Shelby to improve the quality of life in Cleveland County and in the process make uptown Shelby a “destination” for tourism. A renovation to the Old Courthouse to a theme to honor Cleveland County native Earl Scruggs was chosen for the Old Courthouse. Lots of controversy surrounded this process which will not be discussed here,
• A group of citizens who did not believe the Gardner Webb business evaluation for the proposed Earl Scruggs Center as well as changing the Old Courthouse from a broad based historical museum to a single focus theme held several meetings and spoke out against the project and it’s “fuzzy math” financing and projections of happy days to come. This group held meetings, got an audience in the public, opposed the Earl Scruggs Center plan to the Cleveland County Commissioners and got publicly slammed by the Shelby Star in the process.
• The Cleveland County Commissioners bought into all the promises and projections for the Earl Scruggs Center without one bit of independent review or analysis, gave DCC a ten year lease at $1 per year and agreed to put up $1.5 million in taxpayers money to renovate the building. This was in 2008.
• Between 2008 and the opening of the Earl Scruggs Center in January 2014 DCC and the City of Shelby and the Commissioners entered into various relationships to allow DCC to apply for grants, etc., with the taxpayers on the hook if DCC didn’t comply with the terms of the grants..
• When work began on the Old Courthouse, all the historic internal parts of the historic building, including the historic Courtroom itself were demolished and hauled to the dump. The Commissioners provided no oversight in maintaining the building interior.
• The Historic Museum artifacts were hauled away to another location that has been closed to the public.
• The Earl Scruggs Center opened to the public on January 11, 2014. At that time it has been estimated that DCC owed Cleveland County somewhere between $250,000 and $750,000, depending on whether or not certain grant proceeds paid the County for funds that DCC had borrowed against donation pledges.
• After over six months of Earl Scruggs Center operation The Star printed up a front page expose about how well the Earl Scruggs Center was doing. The Star used DCC information without question. We examined the Star’s DCC numbers and did a financial analysis report on the information DCC had provided. This Report was published July 30, 2014 on the Citizens For Good Government website. You are advised to go back and read this article for more insight on what you are about to read below.

Editor’s Note: A more detailed account of what transpired in the items summarized above is being prepared and will be provided separately so as to stay on the main topic-whether the Earl Scruggs Center is a boom of a bust?

• The financial report noted above indicates that at the profit rate that DCC and the Star provided, $36,000 per year, it would take over 150 years to pay back the cost of the Earls Scruggs Center to Cleveland County Taxpayers. And this was using the optimist figures provided by DDC and The Star.

Now for the truth about the future of the Earl Scruggs Center:

The first thing in determining the financial situation at the Earl Scruggs Center is whether or not the Center is still having to depend on taxpayer dollars (grants and such) to keep the doors open. According to reports in the Star, the Earl Scruggs Center is bringing in people from around the world and there have been no reports about any more taxpayer money going to the Earl Scruggs Center. However, both the CIVATAS Institute as well as the John Locke Foundation have published reports indicating that the North Carolina Department of Commerce has awarded the Earl Scruggs Center $250,000 for fiscal year 2014-2015 (which is right now) via a “state aid” appropriation.

The CIVATAS article is titled Waste of the Week: Earl Scruggs Center. Click here to read the article.

The John Locke Foundation’s Locker Room also lists the $250,000 “State aid” to the Earl Scruggs Center in their report (entitled Commerce Department grew 67.5% in budget) on the 2014-2015 budget of the NC Dept of Commerce. The Locker Room article reported in part that the Commerce Budget said “Provides $250,000 in funding to the Earl Scruggs Center to support activities related to the history and cultural traditions of Cleveland County.”

Let’s not forget that the City of Shelby has budgeted $200,000 over five years for the Earl Scruggs Center. We will look at the County budget soon to see if the Commissioners, under the typical leadership of Chairman Jason Falls, have sneaked in more money for the Center hidden somewhere in their budget.

So, folks, it is clear that from the Star’s report and DCC’s own figures the Earl Scruggs Center cannot pay for itself. And from the CIVATAS and John Locke Foundation reports the Earl Scruggs Center will get $250,000 this year to keep their doors open, plus $40,000 from the city of Shelby. That’s $290,000 taxpayer dollars this year to keep the doors open at the Earls Scruggs Center.

These are the facts, Nationally documented facts: The Earl Scruggs Center (number 69 on US Senator Tom Coburns “Book of Waste” for the whole of the USA) still requires large infusions of tax dollars to keep their doors open. You can decide for yourself whether the Earl Scruggs Center is a boom or a bust !!! It is time to think for yourself.

Civitas Names The Golden LEAF Grant For The Earl Scruggs Center On Their Top Ten List Of Wasteful Golden LEAF Projects.

July 16, 2010 Civitas lists The Earl Scruggs Center grant to DCC as number five on their top ten list of most wasteful Golden LEAF projects. They say: 5. Banjo Boondoggle, a $250,000 grant in 2008 was awarded by Golden LEAF to help finance construction of a “performance space inside the historic Cleveland County courthouse.”

The renovated courthouse is intended to “serve as a destination hub for travelers to experience the connection between music and the traditions of the Carolina Foothills.” The courthouse will also house the Earl Scruggs Center, featuring “permanent interactive exhibits highlighting Earl Scruggs’ contribution to music.”

And while you are thinking, when would be a good time for taxpayers and voters to pull the plug on boondoggles in Cleveland County. A good time to start would be November 4, 2014-ELECTION DAY. Single-shot vote for Willie B. McIntosh for Commissioner. Remember, Willie McIntosh voted AGAINST school merger which has been the number one boondoggle in Cleveland County.

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