June 1, 2024 at 5:21 a.m.

Historical Association Wants $41,000

WAYNE HOWARD | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Monday night's (6:30 PM, June 3rd, Lincoln County Administration Offices, N. Generals Blvd.) meeting of the Lincoln County Commissioners will include the required public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2025 County Budget.

With no tax increase planned, it might be expected that there will be little discussion of budget particulars.  

Commissioners have held numerous budget workshop sessions over several months.  The schools are getting  a $6.1 million increase in their funding and County employees will be getting a 2.5% cost of living pay increase.

There appears to be only one non-profit organization that is not satisfied with the proposed budget, and via Facebook posts, its members and supporters have been urged to attend the meeting to express their displeasure.

A letter posted on Facebook reads:

For this coming fiscal year budget, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners has made a decision NOT to add the Lincoln County Historical Association to the cultural organizations that receive annual support from the county.

We are asking for $41,000, an amount we have received for many recent years. This is greatly under what our peer museums receive, but will enable us to continue to maintain our collection with insurance and rent, provide community outreach activities such as the Battle of Ramsour's Mill Living History Weekend, preservation efforts, and continue to serve the research community.

In the past we have survived through a tripod of support: our members and volunteers who give so generously, the City of Lincolnton, and Lincoln County. Unfortunately, the County has chosen to withdraw.

The 'letter' then says in bold print:

Do you believe that preserving Lincoln County's history matters? Do you think that the LCHA should be able to continue sharing our history through outreach? If so, we hope that you will join us by contacting your County Commissioners by phone and email before their meeting June 3, 6:30, at the County Administration Office on North General's Boulevard. A sample message is included at the bottom. If you don't live in Lincoln County, that's fine. Let's show the County Commissioners just how far LCHA's reach and influence extends.

A suggested letter follows with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the Commissioners. 

Numerous comments were posted following that post on Facebook; among them:

Steve: I feel a need to share this. The question was asked, have you guys come into money? Well the answer is No. The Butt/Brown house (built in 1810) was donated to LCHA by the family to preserve. The board of directors voted to save and restore the home for the people. This is a major undertaking which will cost a LOT of money and a lot of volunteers’ time. This is not a monetary gain but quite the opposite. The LCHA was also able to obtain the Forney Cemetery (Revolutionary)in the eastern part of the county that they are working to restore which isn’t a monetary asset by any means. Several years ago the LCHA did receive money from property sales but it isn’t to be used as “running money” but for preservation and research. In the last month the LCHA has been able to hire one part time employee, everyone else is a volunteer for the love of Lincoln County’s history. 

Greg: What an example of negligent and irresponsible leadership. After the massive tax increase they recently enacted, to say now they they cannot even continue to fund a crucial piece of our county’s historic legacy is embarrassing and deeply disappointing. 

Robby: I cannot express how disappointed I am in my county. With family ties running back 260 years in these parts, to see Lincoln County turn its back on its history is a slap in the face to my family who helped settle and tame this land.

Michael: I would like an explanation from the commissioners and would like to know where this money is going instead. With property values and taxes at an all time high, it’s hard to fathom the county can’t supply $41k. My 5GG Capt. John Baldridge fought at Ramsour’s Mill and I think it is very important that we preserve and honor our history!

John: Commissioners defund County History…

Maybe Dollar General can buy the Mundy House in Denver to keep LCHA afloat for a few years. What else can they sell?

Chris: What was the vote?

In the interest of clarity, there was not (as with most other budget items) a specific recorded Commissioner by Commissioner vote; the decision (unanimous agreement) was part of a workshop during which Commissioners heard the various requests from non-profits.  All non-profits seeking County funding had to complete a request form that included a report on their current financial status.  

It is our understanding that the initial form submitted by the LCHA included an erroneous larger figure, but their amended form later reported they had just over $300,000.  

While some of that may be set aside for restoration of properties (as mentioned in one of the Facebook posts) the County has been providing the LCHA $41,000 annually for operating expenses--even though the historical 'museum' (so-called; it's just one room at the Cultural Center with an exhibit related to designer Alda Crowe) has only been open part of the day three days weekly and was closed entirely due to repairs at the Cultural Center in 2019.  The LCHA hasn't had a full-time person working there since 2019 although the County has provided $41,000 annually (they have recently secured a part-time worker).

In addition to historical archives (most not on display), the 'museum' offers genealogy info, most of which is a duplication of material available at the Lincoln County Library.  

Not surprisingly, especially considering its limited open hours, several of those who commented adamantly on Facebook have never actually visited the museum. 


Several Commissioners told the Lincoln Herald they had received emails (mostly 'cut and paste' copies of the suggested LCHA letter, criticizing their decision. 

Commissioner Anita McCall responded to one of those queries as follows:

The application was provided to the Board of Commissioners at an advanced publicized meeting for budget planning. No representative from Lincoln County Historical Society was in attendance. The Lincoln County Commissioners based their decision on the information provided, as with all submittals.  The $41,000 dollar request was denied by the Board of Commissioners because they stated having $1.2 million dollars in their fund balance.

On May 18th, two members of the Historical Society met with County Manager Davin Madden, to express their dissatisfaction with denial and their gross mistake regarding their application with current financial holdings.  The Historical Society members stated, "We do not have $1.2 million in fund balance, as was on our application. We realize we made a mistake, we didn't understand."

At that meeting, they requested Mr. Madden to provide all their information for reconsideration. Mr. Madden provided the information from the meeting to the Commissioners. However, the Board of Commissioners were unanimous in denial.

As with all applications, Lincoln County does not accept any late,  altered or reapplication. Lincoln County does not guide an applicant through their submittal. It is accepted as factual upon submittal. In the past, contract position applications were eliminated by mistakes and an incorrect application.  They were not considered for the contract.

Any and all, incorrectly submitted applications are rejected.  Applicants are encouraged and eligible to apply for fiscal year 2026 budget planning.  


While most of the emails received by Commissioners were copies of the suggested letter, at least one local resident expressed her agreement with the Commissioners' decision:

I am writing to express my support and appreciation for the difficult decision to discontinue funding the Lincoln County Historical Association. 

I want to make sure you know there are community members who support your budget decision since it will be unpopular with some community members, mostly based on their lack of information and facts about LCHA operations. I suspect you will receive emails, letters, and calls asking you to provide funding for the organization. Although it is a small funding amount of $41,000, which isn't much for a budget like Lincoln County, withholding these funds sends a strong message about LCHA's organizational focus, structure, and contributions to the community.

I strongly support celebrating and preserving Lincoln County's rich history and cultural heritage, but I do not believe the LCHA has been a good steward of this effort:

The LCHA has significant cash reserves, in addition to properties, but it has not reinvested in supporting its mission. Based on my knowledge, the LCHA has more cash reserves and assets than almost all other non-profit organizations in our community.

The LCHA does not communicate, collaborate, coordinate, or "play well" with other community organizations they should be aligned with as partners. I have been present in meetings about the annual Ramsour's Mill Battle Weekend event when LCHA has stated, "You do your thing, and we'll do ours," and then refused to share information on its plans. This is but one example of many. This attitude is also evident in the litigious nature of the organization which has chosen to issue lawsuits and legal threats as its modus operandi.

The LCHA failed to reopen the museum for more than 4 years after an A/C flood in 2019. The museum and displays are its primary responsibility! Last year I asked an executive committee member when the museum would re-open I was told they "didn't know because they weren't on that committee." This is a keen insight into the priorities and internal communications within the organization. In my opinion, there should be at least 2-3 exhibits in rotation on an annual basis. However LCHA is overly focused on hiring consultanting curators and building expensive, custom display platforms and cases instead of actually displaying artifacts. Currently, there are some dresses on display with no public plans to change or update the exhibit which is only open to visitors on a limited basis of 3 days and 12 hours per week. In fact, the LCHA website currently states that the museum is closed for renovations.

LCHA has done very little to support the city & county "Home of Catawba Valley Pottery' efforts. LCHA has an extensive CVP collection, yet it is not on display with relevant contextual information on its significance.

The LCHA champions its mission to "collect, preserve, & share" history. However, using the Lincoln Cultural Center as a storage unit for items and artifacts that are never shared, displayed, or available to the community is not meaningful. 

The LCHA has focused on genealogy research, mostly for residents outside of Lincoln County and the state. While interesting to some, this does not benefit Lincoln County residents.

The LCHA has focused on cemetery acquisition & restoration, which is admirable, but not part of the LCHA mission.

The Brown Butt home on West Main Street could be a wonderful "house museum" to display the large furniture collection currently being stored by LCHA. House Museums are generally strong visitor attractions, but I've seen nothing to indicate this is a priority or something LCHA is actively working to achieve.

I'm aware that some community members think that the old courthouse should be utilized by or given to LCHA for use as a museum. Some of these residents didn't know that we already had a museum, but that LCHA was negligent in mounting any exhibits. I can not imagine LCHA, in its current state, as capable of managing the centerpiece of downtown Lincolnton when they aren't capable of creating exhibits in its existing museum space.

Other counties that provide funding for history/culture/museums also have oversight of the organization responsible for operations. LCHA operates without any oversight, accountability, or outside direction. This lack of accountability has created an exclusive "club" that is not worthy of financial support from taxpayers. 

So, thank you for making a tough decision in the best interests of Lincoln County residents. I truly hope that public pressure will not change your minds. 


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