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City of Camden looks to purchase Ross Beard Gun Collection for $700,000
Entire collection is worth $2 million
Ross and Collection
Ross Beard shows off part of his collection in May 2013 prior to the exhibit's opening at the Camden Archives and Museum. Beard is offering to sell his entire collection -- only a portion of which is currently on loan to the archives -- to the city of Camden. - photo by C-I file photo

The city of Camden may spend $700,000 to permanently acquire the Ross E. Beard Jr. Gun Collection, a significant portion of which is already housed at the Camden Archives and Museum. City Attorney Lawrence Flynn, who brought forward a proposal to generate a hospitality fee revenue bond to pay for the collection, said the collection would be “an exciting asset for the city.”

Flynn called the collection a “museum-quality exhibit” that would potentially drive tourism. He said that provides a valid reason to use hospitality tax funds to acquire the collection.

“We obviously have a statute that allows us to pledge those revenue bonds, and one of the things we’ve talked about doing originally was creating a new trust for the benefit of the city,” Flynn said. “The better course was to actually do this as a hospitality fee revenue bond under the new statute actually creating a master bond ordinance that allows us to lockbox the hospitality funds.”

Flynn said the collection would officially transfer to the city on July 1. At that point, he said, everything in the collection becomes owned by the city. Flynn said Beard wished to be paid $100,000 during each of the next seven years for the $700,000 total.

Flynn called the price a “deal” considering the collection’s value.

“The current appraisal we have is approximately $2 million” for the entire collection,” City Manager Mel Pearson said in response to a question from Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford. “The collection we have in the museum at this time is just under $700,000.”

Pearson confirmed for Councilman Willard Polk that the transaction would include the weapons and memorabilia on loan to the S.C. Military Museum in Columbia. He said the city has an inventory list of those items as well as items in the collection housed in other locations.

Flynn said he will be present at council’s June 10 meeting to assist with first reading of a proposed master bond ordinance.

“The statute that we borrow money under requires us to do a public hearing, so there will also be a public hearing (June 10),” he said.

Polk pointed out that council has preferred in recent years not to hold public hearings and first readings of ordinances at the same meeting.

“For the sake of time and the timing of this transaction, this needs to come down quickly,” Pearson responded. “I would ask that to entertain the public hearing on June 10 as well as first reading of the bond ordinance and authorization of the purchase agreement and then we’ll follow up with it on the June 24 meeting.”

Flynn said the purchase of the collection is being pushed forward because Beard wanted the transaction closed, explaining that the city had to meet a 15-day public notice requirement and did so by publishing that notice on May 23.

During council’s regular meeting later that evening, Polk expressed concern over the allocation of $100,000 each of the next seven years to purchase the entire Beard Collection.

“He (Beard) has collected an outstanding collection of weapons and I admire him for acquiring such an extensive collection of military memorabilia. However I do not feel that tax payer money should be used to purchase a private collection of any sort,” Polk said.

Polk said he was concerned that purchasing the collection would make it difficult to turn down future offers from other individuals.

In other work session business, council discussed the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County’s recent request for additional funding for the Blues Festival.

“This year’s proposal (from staff) includes $10,000 in paid tax money, $15,000 in general program operations money, $2,500 for the jazz festival,” Pearson said. “If we were to fund, by way of the Blues Festival, an additional $12,200, that would bring the total level to approximately $40,000 this year, which would be essentially the same as last year.”

At council’s last work session, FAC Executive Director Kristin Cobb asked council to appropriate $50,000 of hospitality tax funds toward the Blues Festival in order to make the entire event free to the public.

Mayor Tony Scully said having Elgin’s Catfish Stomp scheduled for the same weekend as the Blues Festival as well as a new director of tourism for the city in place could potentially help drive ticket sales for this year’s festival.

Polk said he’d looked over Cobb’s proposal and thought the figures were “impressive.”

“We need to take care of our own and do what is necessary to ensure their success,” he said, adding, “The Fine Arts Center is one of our premiere and one of our oldest tourism venues.”

He said he thought the Blues Festival was a worthy activity to support.

Councilman Walter Long said he thought there had to be certain criteria in place for what the city would fund. He said he didn’t think the city should fund the festival at the level Cobb requested. Drakeford said she also couldn’t see funding the event totally, but thought council should work with the FAC to find ways to increase attendance to make the event more successful.

Also during the work session, Camden Police Department (CPD) Chief Joe Floyd honored several officers who have received various awards recently. United Way of Kershaw County President Donnie Supplee presented an award to CPD Victims Advocate Dena Horton for being recognized as Sistercare’s county volunteer of the year. Floyd also presented CPD Sgt. Scott Smith with the S.C. Alcohol Enforcement Team Recognition Award for his efforts in reducing underage drinking. Floyd also presented CPD Sgt. James Heming and S.C. Constable Earl Berry with first place awards from the 2014 Palmetto State Police Pistol Combat Regional Competition and the 2014 National Police Week Pistol Match in the civilian law enforcement category.

Also, City Economic Development Director Wade Luther provided an update from the Maxway Property Committee. Luther said the committee has met five times and are set to meet a sixth time today. He said the committee hopes to finalize a draft of recommendations about what to do with the property for council. Luther said the recommendations may be ready for the June 10 meeting, but may not be until later in the summer. He said he anticipated they would be ready before fall.

During council’s regular meeting, members passed second and final reading of an ordinance adopting the city’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Council also voted unanimously to appoint Joseph C. Munnerlyn to the Board of Construction Appeals with a term to expire May 31, 2017.