The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is planning a massive expansion that’s going to take over the entire block in downtown Greensboro where the museum is located – and expansions like that don’t come cheap.
In fact, they cost millions and millions of dollars. And, on Thursday, July 14, at the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ only scheduled July meeting, the board is scheduled to vote on whether to start helping to pay for that effort.
The outcome of the controversial move to give the museum. $200,000 of taxpayer money isn’t hard to predict: Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who was a founder of the museum, leads a board majority of fellow Democrats. Also, in March at the board’s annual retreat at the Bur-Mil Park Clubhouse, the commissioners took a vote that put the wheels in motion for the board to start giving money to the museum.
Over time, the museum backers are hoping for a total of at least $2 million from Guilford County.
The civil rights museum on South Elm Street is buying the building next door, expanding its offerings and programs, and applying to become a World Heritage Site – an exclusive landmark designation from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). That honor has only been given to two dozen other sites in the US, including Grand Canyon National Park, the Statue of Liberty and Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
The civil rights museum project is roughly estimated to cost between $25 million and $30 million and the museum is seeking money this year and in future years from the county, the City of Greensboro, the State of North Carolina, private donors and community improvement organizations.
Alston, since he’s so closely connected to the museum, did not take part in the Board of Commissioners’ discussion or vote in March and presumably he will not vote Thursday night either. A county staff note attached to the motion states, “When a governing board considers a contract with a non-profit agency, including the award of any funding, board members involved with that non-profit must recuse themselves from any deliberation and record their recusal with the Clerk to Board.”