Ralph Stanley Museum Fiasco
by Lewis Loflin
Update February 2015: Nothing has come of this mass waste of tax dollars, but the local economy in Clintwood is in collapse. Coal jobs have plummeted, population decline continues. But VCEDA awarded millions to underwrite a hotel even after this fiasco! This stands as a historical record to government stupidity.
The Ralph Stanley Museum is closed and now the Town Clintwood will take over operations of the failed museum and traditional music center because it could never pay its bills. I warned about this five years ago. Almost $2 million tax dollars from VCEDA (Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority), the Virginia State Tobacco Commission have been wasted. This website has warned for years this was not an economically viable project and have sadly been proven right again.
The sign above is deceptive in that records from VCEDA show in addition to the $645,000 grant in 2003, they made an additional $200,000 grant in 2004 in addition to a loan of $120,000 in 2005 most of which they defaulted on.
The rundown, but historic Chase House on Main Street was to honor Dickenson County native Ralph Stanley, who wasn't so stupid to spend his fortune on it. Now the Clintwood Town Council will be stuck with the house. To quote one official named Mr. Baker,
"I'm not being critical of anybody, but I don't believe the people were running it as it should have been run. I want us to find some people in other places to help us promote the museum outside this area. And I want to talk to folks at the state level to get their input."
Promote what Mr. Baker? Who in the world in would drive to a remote coal mining community to see an old house dedicated to a washed-up country music star from decades ago? Now they admit to getting only 2000 visitors a year, not the 75,000 they were claiming. Officials finally admitted visitor admissions "will likely never completely cover operational costs" so they want more "promotion." Promotion meaning tax dollars to float the cost of this silly project.
Now they claim the $17 million Heartwood cultural tourism center is supposed to help. (It's 90 minutes away off I-81 in Abingdon Virginia. The Crooked (money) Road - Virginia's Heritage Music Trail is a 250-mile corridor of corporate welfare and pork-barrel scams designed to acquire and spend tax dollars runs through the region.
But that too is an economic basket case even before it opens sometime in 2011 because local taxpayers have to fund their employees!
What's the big next big idea for Clintwood? "Attracting a national chain hotel and restaurants to Dickenson County also remain priorities." Give me a break. What kind of taxpayer subsidies will that cost? Here come VCEDA again that has wasted millions on all kinds of scams just like this.
So VCEDA and Town officials held a "note-shredding celebration" to write off the bad loan costing taxpayer $71,000 and converting it to a grant. Ref. BHC January 06, 2011
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