C.G. White deal in limbo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WINDSOR – Just when you think something’s almost a done deal, everything seems to fall apart.

That’s what it looks like is happening with Bertie County’s acquisition of the C.G. White property from the Bertie Board of Education (BOE).

At the start of Monday morning’s meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners, a representative of the C.G. White Alumnae Association asked the commissioners to postpone their scheduled discussion on the facility.

&uot;We (the Alumnae) are not prepared to discuss it at this time and are asking you to table this matter,&uot; stated Cordia Hall.

County Manager Zee Lamb reminded the commissioners, &uot;This is the same group who has been urging the commissioners to go ahead and move forward with this.&uot;

Chairman of the Commissioners Rick Harrell responded, &uot;We’ve got all three facilities to discuss today and decisions to make regarding all of them.&uot;

Later in the meeting, county attorney Lloyd Smith informed the commissioners of a conversation he had with BOE attorney Carolyn Waller.

&uot;She (Waller) said the board wasn’t sure if they had agreed to sell the 35 acres of property and wastewater treatment (that’s also part of the facility),&uot; Smith stated.

Lamb added that the appraisal the county had done did not include the acreage and water treatment.

Indicating a possible rise in price pending a new appraisal, Smith said, &uot;The school board is thinking about increasing its value to you.&uot;

Harrell stated that he had a conversation with a school board member in which that person revealed the new superintendent’s concern of overcrowding in the county’s elementary schools.

&uot;There is some discussion as to how to use (empty facilities) for education,&uot; he said.

Smith reminded everyone that use of the now-empty J.P. Law and Askewville facilities would not be permissible.

&uot;There’s a federal judgment that says they (BOE) cannot use those schools for educational purposes,&uot; he said.

That ruling came about in 2006 when, as per the BOE’s recommendation, a federal judge ordered the schools closed as part of a 40-year desegregation suit against the county’s school system.

That would leave C.G. White as the sole unoccupied facility that the BOE could potentially use to solve the elementary school’s overcrowding problem.

Harrell concluded, &uot;Since there’s a possibility they may need that facility for educational purposes, I don’t feel comfortable making decisions regarding that property… the ownership issue needs to be in their hands.&uot;

When asked by Commissioner Norman Cherry as to what the next step would be for outside parties interested in the C.G. White facility, Smith replied, &uot;They would need to contact the Board of Education.&uot;

Cherry also reminded the public, &uot;The commissioners are not dragging our feet; we just can’t exercise rights that we don’t have.&uot;

Harrell advised Lamb to meet with the new school superintendent to discuss school needs and how best to meet those with existing facilities.