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.