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Buyer sought for old Sunbury School

GATESVILLE – Gates County officials agreed here last week to move forward with allowing Preservation North Carolina to market the old Sunbury School.

At their night meeting in September, the Gates County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation from Claudia Deviney, Director of the Northeast Regional Office for Preservation North Carolina, as she made a pitch on behalf of her organization to find a buyer for the school.

“The Sunbury School is endangered property. We will market the property, find a buyer, negotiate a contract and make a rehabilitation agreement with the buyer. We receive the property from you, either through a donation or a purchase, and convey it to the buyer,” Deviney said at the Sept. 20 meeting.

“I would like to see us move forward on this and establish some type of agreement that Preservation North Carolina can market this property for rehabilitation and preservation,” Commissioner Henry Jordan said at last week’s meeting.

Jordan added that he asked Gates County Tax Collector Renee McGinnis for information concerning the tax value of the Sunbury School property.

“That gives us some idea of what the assessed values are; not necessarily what we would expect to turn the property over Preservation North Carolina for, but for assessment purposes only,” Jordan noted.

According to the tax values, the old Sunbury School sits on 6.74 acres valued at $50,000. The school building’s value was listed at $650,969 while the gym carried a separate tax value of $193,731.

There are two other listings as part of the school property – the Woman’s Club building (0.58 acres valued at $21,000 and the structure carrying a tax listing of $7,598) and property once used for a parsonage (0.78 acres of land valued at $37,000).

“I’ve talked to several people in the county and they want to see something done, they are really in favor of moving forward with this,” Commission Chairman Graham Twine said.

Deviney, who attended last week’s meeting, then discussed more of the “nuts and bolts” of the pending agreement. She said the familiarity that Gatesville attorney Pitt Godwin (who serves as legal counsel to the commissioners) has with closing properties with Preservation North Carolina in the past would be of great benefit.

“He is fully aware of our process,” she said.

“My one concern is do we need take the gym now being used by the (Gates County) school system out of this,” inquired Commission Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan.

Deviney said she understood the deal with the gym, saying, “you currently have a use for it.”

Godwin said the Sunbury School property was purchased in bits and pieces and pieced together after that. He thought the gym had a separate survey line and he would check on that.

Jordan asked if the parsonage, located on the school property, was being considered within the marketing package.

“It is historic,” Deviney said. “It was once used as the teacherage (at the school). “It sort of goes with the property. We can market it if you like.”

Twine was of the opinion to keep the property as a whole and market it that way.

County Manager Toby Chappell said he was of the understanding that when the county took ownership of the Sunbury School property from the Gates County Board of Education that the school system had unlimited use of the gym.

“Before we allow the gym to be a part of this marketing effort we need to find out exactly what we agreed to with the school system in regards to the use of the gym,” Godwin noted.

“I would like to see the county keep the gym for the reason that there is a church basketball league that conducts practices and games there and keep it as a gym in the Sunbury area for the public to use,” Jernigan said.

“We may have a case where a potential investor says the gym is a deal breaker, if so we can always come back and make that decision,” Jordan said.

The women’s club building (once used as part of the school) on the school property is another possibility to market.

“If we can move this and get $100,000 out of this, that would be great,” Jordan said.

Jordan motioned to allow Preservation North Carolina to market the property, pending Godwin and Chappell working out an agreement. Jernigan offered a second and the motion was approved without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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