County Approves Lease For Military Museum - Brevard, NC


May 11, 2017

A majority of Transylvania commissioners Tuesday voted to allow the WNC Military History Museum to lease the former county administration building beside the courthouse for a year.

The lease agreement is still to be worked out.

In March, museum officials had initially approached commissioners to lease the old Board of Elections office on Gaston Street in Brevard.

At the time, commissioners instructed staff to first look at whether the county has a use for the former elections office, which sits opposite the library.

County Manager Jaime Laughter told commissioners Tuesday that the Department of Social Services, Co-operative Extension, and the Building and Permitting Department are all predicting growth and a need for more space.

Soil & Water Conservation also have specifically asked to be re-located in the old elections office, while Sheriff David Mahoney has suggested making the building a Victim’s Advocacy Center. The Friends of the Library have also come forward with an interest in the building.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Commission Chairman Larry Chapman said the old administration building is currently vacant and the county has not plans for it. He recently walked through the building with Emmett Casciato, the military’s museum’s curator, and Laughter.

Casciato, Chapman said, indicated the building would be a favorable option.

Chapman said he asked Laughter to look at the legal ramifications of leasing county property.

The easiest solution, Chapman said, is to do a one-year lease.

Chapman said leasing the building to the museum is a “significant opportunity” to see “how it goes.”

The museum would need to “present its case” if it wanted to lease the building beyond a year, he said.

The utility costs for the former administration building, Chapman said, would also be significantly lower than for the old elections building.

The museum is ending its exhibit run at the Transylvania Heritage Museum on May 27 and would then be without another location.

During the meeting, Casciato indicated they’ve received funding from inside and outside the county and that more donations would be forthcoming when the museum finds a permanent home.

Chapman said he doesn’t want the museum and its backers to be “gypsies,” calling the museum “too important.”

Chapman ultimately made a motion to have staff begin negotiations to lease the old administration building to the museum for a year. Commissioner Jason Chappell seconded the motion.

Commissioner Mike Hawkins and Kelvin Phillips, however, voiced opposition.

Hawkins said he was “very uncomfortable” with the proposal for a number of reasons, primarily “principle.”

He said he understands the “value” of the museum, but the “question” has always been framed as how do “we find a space for the museum, rather than we have these different proposals, and how do we analyze which is the best use.”

Hawkins said he doesn’t know enough about the “merits of the other proposals to know whether the museum is the best option.”

He said he has “lots of questions that have not been answered” and would vote against the move.

He said he doesn’t have “any negativity toward the museum.”

“I’m not comfortable with taking this action without knowing it’s the best option, and we’ve not done the work,” he said.

Commissioner Page Lemel said she shared a lot of Hawkins’ concerns and said there needs to be a “process” put in place.

She said that commissioners are “running a lot on the emotions of the situation and the pressure (they) are feeling because the military museum will be homeless later this month.”

She said there is a “tremendous value” in the military museum to the community.

She said there is so much “in flux” in the county in terms of space needs, but it will take time to analyze and come up with a good process. Lemel said she could, therefore, support leasing the space to the museum for a year.

Chappell agreed with Lemel that the “process has not been ideal,” while also noting the “excitement” that has been generated by the museum.

Chappell said a year allows a process to take shape and for the “excitement” about the museum to continue until it finds a permanent home.

Hawkins said commissioners are “acting” as if they are board members of the museum rather than the county.

He said the county can support the museum, but he believes that approving the lease would be “doing real damage to (a) proper process.”

Hawkins said that Casciato is “sincere” and “genuine” in what he trying to establish, but commissioners have “different purposes.”

“My purpose is to make sure we run our operations correctly,” Hawkins said. “I see this rush as dangerous.”

Phillips said he agreed with most of what Hawkins said.

Phillips said that he too was “excited” by the museum, but that commissioners’ “duty” was to the county first.

That duty, he said, was to run the county and spend money as “efficiently as possible.”

“I’m not sure making it a one-year lease makes things simpler,” he said. “I think it complicates things.”

The motion to enter an agreement with the museum to lease the old administration building passed 3-2, with Hawkins and Phillips voting against.

At the end of the meeting during public comment, Casciato thanked the board.


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