Journey to the Earl Scruggs continued – Pt 3

Citizens Oppose Destination Cleveland County’s Proposed Use Of Historic Courthouse For Earl Scruggs Museum

As word spreads that the old historic courthouse is being considered for the Earl Scruggs Center, there are questions on the lips of many citizens of Cleveland County. Residents begin voicing concerns and asking questions of the County Manager, County Commissioners, Destination Cleveland County, and The Shelby Star.

People wanted to know if an agreement between Cleveland County and Destination Cleveland County for the use of the Historical Courthouse for the Earl Scruggs Center was a “done deal.” They wanted to know where the artifacts that have been donated to the Cleveland County Historial Musuem were being stored and if they would be returned to the museum once it is renovated. They asked where the money is coming from for renovations and who gets the money once the museum is open. They wanted to know who will run the museum and control the exhibits and any performances given on the premises. They wondered why the survey that supposedly proved DCC’s plans will generate $204 million over the next 10 years was mostly done by the DCC committee members themselves instead of being handled by a disinterested 3rd party.

Earl Scruggs Comes Home

On October 11, 2007, Earl Scruggs returned to Shelby for a sold-out “Coming Home” concert at the 1,200 seat Malcolm Brown Auditorium at Shelby High School, with proceeds going to the projects of Destination Cleveland County. It is the first time since September 6, 1974- more than 30 years ago- that Earl Scruggs has performed in his home county.

DCC Asks For The Courthouse For The Use As The Earl Scruggs Center

By November 2007, Destination Cleveland County is ready to gear up to garner funds for the Earl Scruggs Center- Songs and Stories of the Carolina Foothills and the Don Gibson Theatre. Their original concept included an uptown arena and a historical museum. These two projects are now not included in their five year plan.

At the November 20, 2007 County Commissioners meeting, DCC member and Earl Scruggs’ nephew, J.T. Scruggs, publicly asked Commissioners for permission to use the Cleveland County Historic Courthouse for the Earl Scruggs Center. Among the people J. T. Scruggs introduced to speak in support of DCC were Mayor Ted Alexander and Roger Holland, President of Cleveland County Chamber, who later became architect for the Earl Scruggs Center project.

The County Commissioners voted to approve DCC’s request for County Manager David Dear and County Attorney Bob Yelton to begin negotiations on a lease and draw up a contractual agreement for the courthouse. Commissioner Johnny Hutchins said he would like to see a written document or draft of what he was approving, so he abstained from voting because of a lack of information DCC gave that night about their plans.

Commissioner Chairwoman Mary Accor asked that the proposed document be on the Commissioners agenda the second meeting in January 2008, and set January 15, 2008 as the deadline for a proposal of DCC’s plans for the building.

Also at the November 20, 2007 Commissioners meeting, DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster announced that, on November 19, 2007, DCC had been awarded $250,000 from Golden Leaf Foundation for the Earl Scruggs Center for restoring the courtroom of the Historical Courthouse. How did Golden Leaf Foundation approve a grant for DCC’s project before their lease of the Courthouse has been approved by the Commissioners?

Public Oppostion To DCC’s Plans For The Earl Scruggs Center Escalates

From November 2007 to March 2008, The Star is flooded with mail and email. The future of the courthouse is debated on threads on their message board. The County Commissioners are also bombarded with letters. Former residents of Cleveland County who are concerned about the history and heritage of their hometown, weigh in. The naming of the building “Earl Scruggs Center” is very controversial.

DCC did not meet the January 15, 2008 deadline for their proposal of their plans for the building. This was just the first of many deadlines that they chose to ignore.

DCC’S Rhythm & Roots Marketing Brochure
In January 2008, Destination Cleveland County released their Rhythm & Roots marketing brochure. They list as DCC’s 2007 Board of Directors:
Brownie Plaster
Adelaide Craver
J.T. Scruggs
Doug Brown
Myra Dixon
Sherry Grenier
Millie Arey Wood,
Michael Poage
Dino Nicopoulos
Robin Hendrick
Linda Horn
Shannon Kennedy
John Schweppe, III
Ex-Officio Members:
David Dear, County Manager
Rick Howell, City Manager
Jackie Sibley, Cleveland County Travel and Tourism Director
Marta Holden, DCC President and Executive Director

Also the Rhythm & Roots marketing brochure lists members of Destination Cleveland County’s
2007 Strategic Planning Task Force.
Three of the five Cleveland County Commissioners- Chair Mary Accor, Vice Chair Eddie Holbrook and Jo Boggs- are listed as members of this Task Force who gave their time and energy to develop this five year Strategic Plan.
(DCC only needs three of the five Commissioners to vote in favor of giving them the courthouse to use as the Earl Scruggs Center!)

Commissioner Eddie Holbrook gives a written Testimonial in the brochure.
Commissioner Mary Accor and Commissioner Jo Boggs endorse DCC on the DVD that is included with the Rhythm & Roots marketing brochure.

Also included in the Rhythm & Roots brochure:
Estimated Budget is $30,000 for Web Design/Maintenance, which is done by Millennium Marketing owned by NC House of Representative Debbie Clary and her nephew Joseph Hurdt.

DCC organizers says a total of $7 million is needed for renovations of the Earl Scruggs Center including the upgrade of the building itself. They say the project would be funded by donations, grants and tex credits in addition to county money.

Although the use of the Courthouse for the Earl Scruggs Center has not been granted, at the January 22, 2008 County Commissioners Meeting, the Commissioners approve a six year commitment totaling $1.5 million for renovations for the interior of the old courthouse. County Manager David Dear County Manager stated that any funding that is given to Destination Cleveland County will specifically be used to renovate the courthouse.

In an article written by DCC Chairwoman Brownie Plaster for The Star on January 27, 2008, she states that DCC leaders have been in dialogue with the county Commissioners since July 2006 about the usage of the Historic Courthouse for the Earl Scruggs Center.

DCC continues their plans with confidence and the Museum Planning Team for the Earl Scruggs Center come to Cleveland County on February 4, 2008 to formulate designs for the interior of the Courthouse. The public is invited to meet them.

Citizens continue to speak in opposition to DCC’s plans and their efforts seem to fall on deaf ears. Commissioners Eddie Holbrook and Johnny Hutchins said at the February 5, 2008 Commissioners meeting that the public is free to talk at any time about the Scruggs Center, with Commissioner Holbrook mentioning a possible question- and-answer session in the future to clear up any misinformation.

The Star promotes the Earl Scruggs Center for DCC and in an editorial on February 10, 2008, Publisher Skip Foster calls the citizens in opposition of the project “Debbie Downers.”