School disposal plan approved

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 30, 2007

WINDSOR – The long-awaited meeting at which the fate of C.G. White Middle School would be discussed was held here Monday afternoon.

The gathering was a joint meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners and the Bertie County Board of Education.

Representatives from the parties interested in utilizing the facilities at C.G. White were also present, including the members of the C.G. White Alumnae Association, who showed up decked out in blue and gold school color shirts.

In May, the commissioners received a letter from the Board of Education stating that they no longer needed the facility and they were offering the county the first right of refusal, as is required by North Carolina law.

Since then, several groups interested in the property for their own purposes have approached the commissioners.

These include the Town of Powellsville, the C.G. White Alumnae Association and Powellsville First Baptist Church.

The Town of Powellsville desired part of the facility for reasons having to do with saving them nearly a million dollars in water/sewer infrastructure renovation.

The Alumnae group wanted to make sure the building’s historical integrity was preserved, since they are made up of members who attended the historically black school.

Powellsville First Baptist, which is adjacent to C.G. White, is attempting to ensure that their current ability to park using school parking on Sundays isn’t compromised.

Bertie County also desires the property for its own use, as stated by County Manager Zee Lamb.

&uot;The recreation department and new fields are currently located in Windsor. There is no indoor facility there and yet there is need for such,&uot; he began.

He continued, &uot;It would take millions of dollars to build a new indoor facility at the current site… perhaps that is something that might happen one day but in the meantime we’ve got to do something else. C.G. White and Southwestern

Middle School will both be unused by the school system next year and they both have gyms and ball fields that could be used for county recreation.&uot;

Lamb went on to state if the county owned the buildings, they could get grants through the state or federal parks and recreation department, whereas they could not if the buildings were still owned by the Board of Education.

&uot;We could use it for recreation, which would be a de-centralization of just having rec in Windsor, since we often hear complaints about how things always only happen in Windsor,&uot; Lamb noted.

The site could also be used by the county for senior services, exercise classes, a nutrition site, a possible sheriff substation, cooperative extension, or by the health department.

Lamb further stated the commissioners were committed to the C.G. White Alumnae Association and that they would allow the group to use part of that building for historic purposes.

&uot;The question,&uot; he said, &uot;is whether or not the proper entity of ownership would be the county, the town, the town together with the county, or any of the third parties.&uot;

Commissioner Norman Cherry, Sr. made a motion to make an offer for the property.

&uot;I would suggest that we as a board come to a decision to acquire that property… then sit down with representatives from each entity to decide how to use it once we acquire is from the school board,&uot; he stated.

The motion passed unanimously and Chairman of the Commissioners Rick Harrell told the Board of Education to expect to receive a formal offer soon.

Before Cherry introduced his motion, the issue of what should be considered fair market value for the facility was discussed.

Dr. Michael Priddy, Interim Superintendent of Bertie County Schools, stated, &uot;Fair market value is hard to determine because of the age of the building.&uot;

Recently, the county had the property appraised. The value came back at $30,000, simply because the building is so old and has depreciated so much that it would cost more to maintain than the potential it has to make money.

Attorney for the Board of Education, Carolyn Waller, cautioned, &uot;The one limitation a board has when disposing of a property is that there has to be fair market value offered… it’s a constitutional provision in North Carolina and one that is not possible to get around.&uot;

After the motion passed for the Commissioners to begin the process of acquiring C.G. White, Harrell addressed the groups with an interest in the property.

&uot;C.G. White is not going to operate itself… it’s going to take people and it’s going to take money,&uot; he stated.

Harrell said the Commissioners had asked the Alumnae Association twice for written information on how they planned to arrange funds to help with the upkeep of the property.

The Board of Education seemed pleased with the Commissioners’ decision.

&uot;I do think we’re making a wise transaction and I hope it will work out in everyone’s best interests… it’s just a matter of working out the price,&uot; Priddy stated.

He went on, &uot;I think that getting the transaction done as soon as possible will be in the best interest of the future owner, due to ongoing vandalism and general decay.&uot;

For that reason, the Commissioners promised to address the amount of the offer they will make for the property at their next meeting on August 6.

They said they will then get the offer to the Board of Education prior to their August 13 meeting so a decision can be finalized at that time.