Financing LeGrand Center Lowers County Bond Rating, Costing County Taxpayers More

Report by: Robert A. Williams

I should put up a prize for anyone who can give the correct answer to as simple question: Why was the LeGrand Center built? Some might say, to have a place to hold events like Charlie Daniels and Lee Greenwood. No, that is what the Don Gibson Theater is for. Others might say, it’s to hold conferences. No, that is why the Old Courthouse, now the Earl Scruggs Center, demolished the Old Courthouse’s big historic Courtroom. To have a place for meetings and conferences. Yet again, others might say we had to have a place for the Early College High School. I would say no again. The Early College and Turning Point Academy were formed to take certain students away from Shelby, Kings Mountain, Burns and Crest High Schools so those high schools would score better in state rankings. Send those students back to the regular high schools.

So, what we have is the LeGrand Center, the Don Gibson Theater and the Earl Scruggs Center, all at cross purposes and competing among themselves for a limited client base. And, apparently all losing money despite all the glowing reports from the Star that attempts to gloss over the financial facts of life. And the Cleveland County Commissioners, led by Chairman Jason Falls of Kings Mountain, don’t tell the truth about the LeGrand Center and Cleveland County itself having money when in reality they (no-WE) are broke. But don’t believe me, go back to the article showing the clip of County Manager Jeff Richardson telling commissioners “the county can’t afford to pay county employees” at the established pay rates.

Anyway, The Earl Scruggs Center has been the subject of several articles exposing the financial problems there. The Don Gibson Theater (which has to sent “big” events to the Malcolm Brown Auditorium at Shelby High School still has to have money transfusions from the city of Shelby to keep their doors open. If you don’t believe that, then go check out the latest budget for the City of Shelby. Now, thanks to the and big phony article published in the Shelby Star September 17, 2014, titled LeGrand revenues increase in second year, continues to create economic opportunities, we intend to tell the truth about the LeGrand Center financial situation too.

As you get to this part of article, perhaps you are wondering why you should read on?? Your property tax rates have not gone up for awhile so the commissioners must be doing something right you might think. And so what if the LeGrand Center only makes money for motels. Well, there is more to that that you should know. All these issues are related. Right now the taxes from the new Duke Power Plant at Cliffside and the taxes for the Southern Company Power Plant have kicked in and are paying almost 10% of the county property taxes. But have you received a 10% cut in YOUR taxes??? The Commissioners sold the county healthcare facilities for $100 million, $1,000 for every man women and child in Cleveland County. Have you received YOUR $1,000??? I didn’t think so. All the while, the commissioners have been digging deep into their reserve funds to cover their spending shortfalls. All except paying county employee wages. Are you ready to pay attention now??

OK, when the County wanted to build the LeGrand Center as well as the Cleveland County Schools wanting to build the new Shelby Middle School on top of spending over $9 million to renovate the old Shelby High School to make a home for the bloated and highly paid school administrators, the county was on a spending spree and the commissioners didn’t know how to say NO to anything or anybody.

So, what did they do? They created a new entity called Cleveland County Public Facilities Corporation. It was like getting a new credit card under a new name after all your old cards were maxed out. The County Commissioners used this new source of credit to finance $22 million in bonds to pay for both the LeGrand Center AND the new Shelby Middle School. They always mix things all together and blow lots of smoke to make it a bit harder for us to dig out the truth. But this time there was not enough mixing or enough smoke.

Not only had the commissioners gotten by with doing stuff that would have put a Wall Street money man in jail (like Bernie Madoff when his billion dollar Ponzi scheme was exposed), nobody said a word. Even when our affiliate ccncwatchdog.org exposed this Cleveland County financial scheme some time back.

But the Bond Traders on Wall Street knew enough about such shenanigans that they lowered the Cleveland County Public Facilities Corporation’s bond rating down several points (so they could get extra fees and interest) and did the deal. They also put in the contract that the LeGrand Center and the Shelby Middle School are 100% collateral for the Bonds and if the County defaults on payment, the Bond folks can repossess the facilities.

You didn’t read one word of this in the Star article did you? What you read was how revenue at the LeGrand Center had increased according to Millie Holbrook, whose husband is Commissioner Eddie Holbrook. You also didn’t read about the original 6 year contract with The Wilderman Group to run the LeGrand Center had somehow disappeared.

You read about LeGrand Center revenue, but not a peep about costs at the LeGrand Center. Since the bonds for the LeGrand Center and the Shelby Middle School are intermixed and the school doesn’t have such a revenue stream, the LeGrand Center will have to pay 100% of the $22 million or both the LeGrand Center AND the school will be repossessed. If you assume the LeGrand Center will make a 25% on the annual revenue reported by the Star, say $150,000, it will take over 146 years to pay off that bond, not counting interest. That’s in the middle of the NEXT Century. At this rate no man, women or child alive in Cleveland County today of their children will live long enough to see the LeGrand Center paid off at this rate. But not to worry, the bonds are for 15 years. And the commissioners are going full speed to build a $2 million gun range this year???

As Apollo 13 once said; “Houston, we have a problem!!!”

Folks, our options are limited. We could have a revolution and behead all our county commissioners, execute them by firing squad at the new gun range, hang them on the porch of the Earl Scruggs Center or single shot vote for Willie B. McIntosh for Commissioner on November 4, 2014. Take your choice

Editor’s Note: We see no blame for the generous LeGrand family regarding the financial fiasco’s described in this article. The LeGrand family are victims too of incompetent commissioners like Jason Falls.

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