Journey to the Earl Scruggs continued – Pt 3

Brendan LeGrand addressed the board and told them that they still have a tenant in the building and must terminate that lease before they can enter into another lease for the property. She gives the Commissioners the following documents:
1. A prepared statement
2. A copy of the 1975 lease agreement between Cleveland County and the Cleveland County Historical Museum
showing terms required to terminate the lease are six months notice in writing.
3. Acquisition form showing that the artifacts were given to the museum unconditionally.
4. Articles of Incorporation of Cleveland County Historical Museum, Inc. and a statement telling that Secretary of State’s office says that the museum is still current and active. Mrs. LeGrand tells the Commissioners that the museum did not fail. It was failed by the Commissioners who did not abide by the terms of the lease in maintaining the building. The building closed for repairs and the Commissioners never allocated money to repair the building. Commissioner Mary Accor and Commissioner Ronnie Hawkins were on the board in 2004 when the building closed for repairs and they are still on the board in 2008.

Commissioner Johnny Hutchins asked County Attorney Bob Yelton, “What makes the old lease terminated?” Mr. Yelton explained that in his research and opinion, based on cases and statutes in North Carolina, when a museum association abandoned the building and stayed abandoned for a period of over 180 days, it was the county’s prerogative to take over the building free of the lease and also take control of all of the property in the building. This property has been abandoned for four or five years.

It is necessary to stop right here and tell why the Cleveland County Historical Museum was closed:

Cleveland County Historical Museum Closes For Repairs

The building was not abandoned. It was closed in the middle of April 2004 by the county. As the county owns the building, David Dear, Assistant County Manager at the time, asked the Museum Director of the Cleveland County Historical Museum for the keys to the building and told the museum staff to take an indefinite, unpaid leave. The doors were locked by the county, locking all artifacts and records inside.

Minutes from the Cleveland County Historical Museum Board Meetings from 2002 to 2004 tell of the neglect of the courthouse building. Board members refer to the poor condition of the building, the fact that it leaks, there is a dampness, how the heating and air conditioning are not working properly. Bathrooms are old and not usable for large groups. There is currently no space. Upstairs archives must be moved to the first floor because of water and moisture damage. The courtroom was painted and ceiling also, but it still leaks and needs ceiling repairs, plaster work, doors on all four sides need to be replaced. They say they would like to open the courtroom to visitors. Electrical work needs done and painting all through the building needs to be done. Several other areas need much-needed repairs. There is talk of asking the county for another building, as the condition of the courthouse building is not suitable for the artifacts.

Another recurring theme from the minutes of the board meetings is a lack of funds. The board talks of needing to get the county to spend some money on the museum. They talk of grants applied for.

It seems that the exterior of the building was kept in better shape than the interior. Minutes in 2003 tell that the county is doing a great job on the outside of the building.

On March 23, 2004, less than a month before the museum closes for repairs, an article in The Star tells about a year in the planning, historic square undergoes a major facelift. The article says, “Work began Monday to renovate the sidewalks, infrastructure and greenery in uptown Shelby’s courtsquare… Cutting the centuries-old-trees is part of the changes… The plan next week is to begin building a new curb and guttering… The City of Shelby and Cleveland County are paying for the makeover.”

Item number 4 of the lease agreement the Cleveland County Historical Musuem made with the county in August 1975 stated that the county would maintain and repair the building as it would any other county building. So why did the County Commissioners neglect the courthouse building and allow it to get into such disrepair that it had to close?