Southern Museum chief tells Kennesaw Council: Museum is worth the cost
by Hannah Morgan
October 08, 2013 11:57 PM | 2766 views | 4 4 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — The president of a foundation that works on behalf of Kennesaw’s top tourist attraction scolded the City Council on Monday night for its recent criticism of a museum that has been unable to sustain itself without taxpayer subsidies.

Council members on Monday night again listened to upset residents sounding off about the finances of the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

But Museum Foundation President Paul Chastain approached the council Monday and shot back, at times shaking his fists and pointing his finger to drive home his points.

He publicly rebuked the council members who spoke critically of the museum’s finances in a recent article published by the MDJ, citing its $3.2 million debt and need for subsidies from local taxpayers.

“Museums don’t make profits,” he reminded the council, and what began as a dream, has now evolved into a $5 million asset for the city. He said the council should view the museum as a quality of life asset rather than a self-sustaining operation.

“I personally feel that this city has one of the finest gems that can be had,” said Chastain, of the museum.

The city issued a bond in 2001 for $4.9 million and pays $435,000 annually toward the remaining $3.2 million debt owed.

Last year, the museum ran a deficit of $416,458, as it was unable to cover its $764,188 in expenditures without transfers of tax revenue from the general fund, according to the 2014 budget that was approved Sept. 16.

Recent criticism from council members and other citizens on the expenses the museum has accrued and its inability to break even in the annual budget, have inhibited the foundation’s ability to raise funds for the museum, Chastain said.

“When we get through next year, this city will have a $5 million asset, and you will owe $3.2 million,” Chastain told the council members. “We have spent 14 years to improve the quality of life in this city. We are committing to the quality of life in this city. In 2021, you will be grateful, and the debt will be repaid,” he shouted.

Sam Paglioni, a resident who has spoken at previous City Council meetings about how the city has handled the museum’s finances, addressed the council members again on his worries for the future of the city’s budget.

Paglioni voiced concern with the city employees’ unfunded pensions, which he believes are a growing liability for Kennesaw. The city has promised to pay its workers their pensions when they retire, but it doesn’t currently have the funding available to do that, he said.

Paglioni has been vocal at city meetings about the finances of the city’s museum.

“Some people like it, some people don’t,” he said, “I just believe it has to be run in a more effective manner and with a little less government control.”

Council member Cris Welsh thanked Chastain for sharing his passion and desire for the museum, and for bringing the other side of the story, from the perspective of the Museum Foundation, to light.

The museum is part of the heritage of the city, said Councilman Bruce Jenkins, but “the economy we knew five, seven years ago doesn’t exist anymore. We have to create our present economy. We have to work together with the foundation to come up with funding for the museum,” he said.

Plaque presented for military veterans

The Kennesaw Business Association, Kennesaw Optimist Club and the American Legion donated money to present a plaque to thank the students at Kennesaw State University who now serve, or are veterans in the military. The idea was Councilman Jeff Duckett’s, and the community groups were more than happy to be involved, said Ron Mazzola, the senior vice commander of the American Legion North Cobb Post 304.

“The American Legion is in support of American rights, patriotism and Americanism. We want to show them support from the town,” said Greg Vassilious, another member of the American Legion North Cobb Post 304.

In other business, the council approved new rules and regulations for visitors to the Kennesaw City Cemetery, just off of Cobb Parkway and south of downtown Kennesaw.

The regulations include details on where headstones and grave markers can be placed, and how residents can apply to be buried in the cemetery.

Council also gave permission for the mayor to finalize leases of three 2013 Ford Taurus police cars. The city will pay off the $116,883 loan for $30,485.45 each year, at an interest rate of 2 percent.

Public safety workers honored

Almost 100 residents gathered at City Hall in downtown Kennesaw to commemorate Public Safety Week, which will run from Oct. 7-13 this year and to thank all the public safety workers in the city.

“We are very blessed to live in a community that focuses so much commitment to serving our community,” said Mayor Mark Mathews, of the city’s public safety workers.

The City Council will meet next Wednesday, October 16 at 6 p.m. for a work session.

Comments
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checkforsure
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October 19, 2013
My understanding was the plaque was the idea of Councilman Jenkins, not Duckett.
kennysawyer
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October 10, 2013
Your article says the city council listened to "upset RESIDENTS sounding off." I was there and only one RESIDENT "sounded off " and that was Sam. Also the article does not mention Sam "sounding off" about the travel expenses of the Mayor and Council.
David Burns
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October 09, 2013
At this moment, not just our museum but museums as a whole have the same fundamental dilemma. How do you make ends meet with scarce resources? Of course the museum foundation thought they would be debt free in a couple of years But then something struck us all, a recession that was the worst hit Americans have taken since the depression. Corporate giving came to a halt, 401 k's were destroyed, people were more worried about paying their electric bill then buying a ticket to a museum. Of course the museum is struggling as is all museums, art centers, libraries and I could go on. So do we shut them down? Put the General in storage or sell it off? Should we stop there?

This museum was a long time dream, by a lot of great citizens of Kennesaw. It has been a struggle and mistakes have been made, but the museum should be treated for what it is. A treasure trove of historical documents and resources. It should not be used as political folly for those seeking power. Instead of attacking this institution, you should support it.

*And to the young lady at the park the other night who stated the museum director has a 75,000 car budget, all I can say to that is bless your heart.

Be Careful
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October 09, 2013
The museum is a wonderful place. To bad nobody goes there. They are not making any money from ticket sales, and the foundation can't raise any money from donations. When the city signed the bonds, the foundation agreed to be self supporting in 10 years. That was 14 years ago. Considering the total amount of the Kennesaw city budget, to prop up the museum is a HUGE chuck of change coming out of the taxpayers pockets. It is NOT a lifestyle benefit if nobody goes. An empty building is not a benefit to anyone. And it's not an asset to the city is nobody goes. It's just a 5 million dollar stack of bricks.
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