Old Ahoskie High School is alive and well

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AHOSKIE – A project that has been in the works for years has finally come to fruition.

As such, many thanks were in order here Monday at the ribbon cutting for the new Ahoskie High School Apartments for the elderly.

The building, which was originally constructed in 1929, first served as Ahoskie High School and later as Ahoskie Middle School, until it was closed due to its deteriorating facilities.

There it has stood ever since, crumbling and deteriorating from years of neglect.

Now, after more than two years of renovations, the building and grounds have been fully restored and will serve as home to 41 senior citizens.

Brainstorming for the project began several years ago, but the groundbreaking took place in July 2005. Construction is now completed and some people have already moved in to the apartments, according to CADA Director Sallie Surface.

A grand opening ceremony was held Monday afternoon at which several state and local officials had warm words of congratulations for those who worked so diligently on the project.

CADA President Cleveland Blount opened up the ceremony’s remarks.

&uot;If we had not listened to Sallie Surface a number of years ago, this project would not be possible,&uot; Blount began.

He went on, &uot;We are the forerunners in North Carolina for turning old high schools into apartments. I’d like to congratulate Hertford County and the Town of Ahoskie for their participation.&uot;

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn, who doubles as the Director of the Hertford County Office on Aging, was also pleased with the project’s completion.

&uot;I have often said in that (latter) role that there’s a need for better housing for seniors… so I’m very delighted,&uot; she stated.

Blackburn went on, &uot;It’s taken a lot of hard work, dedication and cooperation. Sallie Surface did a job well done and I’m proud of the cooperation from others as well. It’s been a joy and a collaborative effort with outstanding results.&uot;

Surface spoke of challenges the project ran into along the journey, which were overcome by the hard work of local and state politicians.

&uot;One of the early challenges was one involving HUD,&uot; Surface stated.

She continued, &uot;We weren’t getting very far with approval until we talked to our congressmen, and they quickly put us in touch with the people in D.C. to help us move forward and for that we are very grateful.&uot;

Surface also commended the historic restoration committee on the project.

&uot;There was a restoration committee involved in restoring and maintaining this building; they got involved very early on. Without their work in those early days to make it work, this project could not have happened,&uot; she said.

A representative from that same committee, Charles Hughes, was present as well to contribute to the celebration.

&uot;It’s a great day here in Ahoskie because this building was gone before and I was one of the group asked to bring it back to life,&uot; he remarked.

Hughes continued, &uot;There had been a lot of ups and downs, things looking bleak, but then God put Sallie Surface in front of us and she turned it around.

&uot;It is something that we can really be proud of… it’s a great accomplishment and a sign of the great ingenuity and money still not available on a local basis. With all the different minds coming together and resources from Washington and the Ahoskie Town Council, we made it come together and it’s a great day, a wonderful day,&uot; Hughes concluded.

Elaine Myers, a member of the Ahoskie Town Council, noted, &uot;This is truly a great moment for me personally and for the Town of Ahoskie. No longer are we (the building) an eyesore with boarded up windows, but we are the beauty of the town.&uot;

She continued, &uot;What this facility has become is an offering of a home for 41 residents. It’s a win-win situation for everybody. This is progress. Our town is proud.&uot;

Julias Russell, a member of the Ahoskie Housing Authority board, also had thanks to give.

&uot;We just really appreciate what everyone has done to get this place from down in the dumps to up on a hill,&uot; he stated.

Raleigh officials threw in their two cents as well.

&uot;This is a new era and a new beginning for lots of things… I am indeed humbled by the number of things that have happened in this part of North Carolina. It’s something we can be extremely proud of,&uot; stated Representative Annie Mobley.

Senator Ed Jones contributed, &uot;This is what this is all about right here, doing something for the least of us.&uot;

United States Congressman G.K. Butterfield also expressed thanks and offered congratulations to all.

&uot;This is a happy occasion, a perfect example of what can happen when strong partnerships occur. There were some who said it could not be done, but you all worked hard and worked together and this is the final result,&uot; he exulted.

The apartments are available to seniors 55 and older and they are affordably priced, according to Surface.

Anyone interested in getting an application for the apartments can call the Ahoskie Housing Authority at 332-2163 or stop by the facility to talk to an on-site administrator.

Rents are subsidized based on income, but the maximum cost is $429 for a one-bedroom apartment or $475 for a two-bedroom.

Criminal record and credit checks are routinely performed on all applicants.