The Pitt County Board of Commissioners will not upgrade 74-year-old school property.
The board, which met remotely, declined the right of first refusal on an offer to purchase the former Stokes School gymnasium on NC 903 with a 7-2 vote on Monday after discussing the cost of rehabilitation of the building.
Pitt County Schools notified the county in December that the school system had received an offer of $10,000 to purchase the two buildings and surrounding 1.2 acres of land.
The system said it did not demolish the buildings because reducing environmental issues would be costly. In 2015, it was determined that the demolition would cost approximately $250,000. The potential buyer wishes to use the buildings for storage.
At the December meeting, the board decided to delay a decision after Commissioner Chris Nunnally suggested the possibility of using American Rescue Plan Act funding to create a community center.
County engineer Tim Corley said Monday that staff and commissioners visited the site last week. The ballpark figures to restore the building to working order would be around $1.25 million to $1.65 million, Corley said. Environmental health issues stem from septic problems, asbestos and lead paint.
Staff said the building was unsuitable and too expensive to become a community center. At Monday’s meeting, Nunnally also said he was concerned the building was continuing to deteriorate under new ownership. The property is adjacent to the current Stokes School property.
“I’m afraid this will fall into a worse situation than it already is for this community,” Nunnally said.
The 7-2 vote paved the way for the school system to sell the old gymnasium and cafeteria, which were used from 1948 to 2004. Nunnally and Commissioner Alex Allbright voted against the sale.
On Monday, staff also offered comments on where the public wants US bailout funds invested. Pitt County Chief Financial Officer Brian Barnett said the community appreciated the opportunity to participate and enjoyed having sessions across the county.
No singular need was addressed, he said. A public comment session in northern Pitt County in November saw citizens calling for expanded broadband services north of the Tar River, food insecurity assistance and health services in the area of Pactolus and Clark’s Neck.
During a session at Alice Keene District Park on November 29, community members mostly asked for recreational opportunities and gym facilities. A Farmville session Dec. 7 noted food insecurity, childcare and job training, Community Crossroad Center expansion for isolation rooms, anti-human trafficking assistance and business assistance for those forced to close due to the pandemic.
Following Barnett’s presentation on community feedback, the board instructed staff to find a date for a workshop where they can better discuss the allocation of funds. Gallagher recommended the meeting be held in person and suggested the board wait until at least February.
The county announced Thursday that the meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Eugene James Auditorium, 1717 W. Fifth St. The meeting will be held in person without public comment.
During her Monday report, County Executive Janis Gallagher said there was optimism the council would be back in person or on a hybrid basis when it next meets on February 7. .
Gallagher, who assumed the manager’s role on December 31, also introduced his management team with a brief video during his report: Barnett; Corly; Michael Taylor as Chief Information Officer; Sam Croom as Revenue and Growth/Taxation Administrator; Florida Hardy as Director of Human Resources; and James Rhodes as Director of Planning.
The following items were approved as part of the board consent agenda:
- A budget amendment of $31,737 in state excise tax by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
- A rental program for buyout properties.
- Resolutions honoring the sheriff’s office retirements of Clemmie German and Kenneth Ross.
- An amendment to the Pitt County Human Relations Commission Ordinance.
- A request for training exception for strategic public leadership.