Bringing vision to life

Published 8:34 am Thursday, December 18, 2014

WINDSOR – On one hand they’re going; on the other they’re growing.

At their December evening meeting here Monday night the Bertie County Board of Commissioners unanimously offered to begin negotiations with the Bertie County Board of Education on the purchase of their Central Office Building located just off US-13 North at 222 County Farm Road.

Superintendent Elaine White made the BOE’s intentions known as she presented an update on Bertie County Schools before the Commissioners.

White, in a letter to County Manager Scott Sauer earlier this month, stated that school board policy calls for the first option for surplus property – which is what the building will become once the BOE offices are moved to the old Bertie High School – to first be offered to the Commissioners at fair market value or at a price to be negotiated between the two Boards.  White’s letter further stated that the most recent Department of Public Instruction insurance appraisal listed the replacement value of the property at $915,500, with an actual cash value of $697,944.

With a market value on the building of around $300,000, the school board is offering the entire 3.26 acres to the county for $150,000.

“That could be paid over multi-years,” White said.

White suggested in her presentation that the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office could re-locate from its downtown Windsor location to the building on County Farm Road; a subject that the Commissioners had previously considered.

Should the Commissioners purchase the Central Offices, White said the Board would then move its offices to 715 US-13 North: the site of the old Bertie High School.

That’s when White unveiled the second portion of her and the school board’s proposal – “Bringing Vision 2020 to Life”.

“We did not say it would become the new Bertie County Central Offices,” White remarked. “It is the new Bertie Central Services Complex at the former Bertie High School.

“Our vision is that it would be used for so many other things that we just could not call it administrative offices,” White continued.

White said currently the Auto Tech shop is located at the old school along with the Construction shop.

“In the past we have not been able to have indoor construction because of the size of that building, it’s just a very small classroom,” the superintendent said.

White’s proposal calls for expanding the Construction shop to the former graphics communication building, while the former shop is now being used for indoor projects.  Students are shuttled from the new high school to the two shops for classes.

The superintendent said budget cuts over the last few years have eliminated a number of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, but beginning with the next school year some of those courses will re-appear.

“Starting 2015-16 we are proposing to add an HVAC back to our curriculum,” she stated.  “In 2016-17 we’re looking at adding Culinary Hospitality and Tourism.  Looking at the former high school we still have all of the commercial equipment for food service, and it would give us an opportunity to expand our program to catering and offer catering to the community.  So we’re looking forward to adding additional courses for our students.”

White expressed enthusiasm for the new partnership agreement between Bertie Schools, the county’s Emergency Management Services, and Roanoke-Chowan Community College to offer an Emergency Management Technician course for the students at the high school four days a week.  The school would provide the classroom space; county EMS would supply the educational materials and uniforms; while RCCC has agreed to provide the instructors and the curriculum.  Students have been identified and a meeting with parents is set for later this month. They hope to begin the course in January.

“It’s a win-win situation,” White enthused. “It’ll provide training for our students as well as workers for Emergency Management.”

As part of continuing adult education offered through RCCC, White says two courses could be established at the school for adults to pursue training in the Emergency Management field.

Another partnership the school board has forged is with Albemarle Smart Start, which currently meets in downtown Windsor, but could also move its offices and some of its Transformation Zone programs to the old high school.

Another proposed tenant at the old school would be a clothes closet and family assistance program offered through the Bertie Ministers Alliance for Education.  The Open Door Community Church has offered to lease the former Little Theater space at the old high school.

A Professional Development Center, the transformation of classrooms into office space, and a community Health Center and Fitness Program would be some of the other additions that could be done at the old school.

“This would be getting our community involved and getting into that complex,” White maintained. “We need to work together to build a better Bertie.”

During a comment period Commission Chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson complimented the superintendent and the school board on their cooperative efforts with the Board of Commissioners.

“I think we’ve been able to work through a lot of issues,” Wesson said, “and what we’ve found is that there are a lot more opportunities than issues.”

The Commissioners also remarked on the idea of purchasing the old Central Office and moving the Sheriff’s Office there.

“(Sheriff) Holley would love to have all his staff in one place,” said Wesson.

Wesson also inquired about all county vehicles, not just school buses, being serviced at a renovated bus garage.

The superintendent said the school system is also moving ahead with the idea of relocating the county Bus Maintenance Facility.   Things she elaborated upon, including an offer of a new location, will be reported on here at a later date.

“Think how much money the county could really save having all that maintenance, oil change, tires, whatever, in one place,” Wesson said. “It would save considerable dollars and is better use of the taxpayer’s dollars.”

Commissioner John Trent expressed concern over new law enforcement assistance equipment, such as the communications system, being installed in the old Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioners Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore, Vice-chairman Tammy Lee, and Stewart White – the newest members of the Board – seemed pleased with the superintendent’s proposals.

“We need to train a workforce, and that seems to be the right step to take with that building,” said White.

Trent said he liked the negotiated terms as well as a multi-payment plan and then made a motion to begin negotiations with the school board on acquiring the BOE’s Central Office building.  White seconded the motion and it was passed without objection by all the Commissioners.