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Board debates moving Bertie Sheriff’s Office

WINDSOR – At its December meeting the Bertie County Board of Commissioners heard an update from County Schools Superintendent Elaine White. During the meeting, White stated the Bertie County Schools’ Central Office on County Farm Rd., south of Windsor, would become available pending a move of those offices to the old Bertie High School location on US-13 North.

The 3.26 acre property will be offered for sale to the county and 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 three-and-a-quarter acres to the county for $150,000.

After the presentation, the Commissioners made a motion, which passed unanimously, to enter into negotiations to purchase the facility and there is some idea that the location might best serve the county as the headquarters of the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office.

“In our discussions we talked about whether we wanted to move forward with acquisition of that building as the Sheriff’s Office,” said Commission chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson. “I’d like to know if you’re ready to move forward with a discussion around using that space, even if we have to negotiate around the price.”

Wesson expressed a desire to get the rest of the Commissioners’ thoughts on the building’s transformation from education to law enforcement.

The current Sheriff’s Office is located at 104 Dundee Street behind the historic Bertie County Courthouse.

“I’ve been ready since 2013 since the opportunity came about,” said Commissioner John Trent, to snickers from the crowd present for the meeting.  “I think it’s going to enable our Sheriff’s department to expand and I think as we have over $100,000 of new radio equipment that we can’t afford to put into a building we plan on moving out of.  We’ve got to start making steps of moving forward on where we’re going: installing, un-installing, re-installing, or whatever.”

Trent was referring to the upgrade to the county’s new Communications System which serves several vital services of Bertie County including the Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management.  The new equipment is part of the county’s budget for 2015.

“It would not be a good idea to install that equipment in one place and then re-locate it elsewhere because there may be a time advantage to us in doing that,” Wesson said.

Commissioner Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore said if the Sheriff’s Office was “on board” with the idea of a move then she favored it also.

“If they’re ready to move, I don’t see why not,” Bazemore stated.

Commissioner Stewart White solicited the opinion of County Manager Scott Sauer who confirmed discussions had taken place with Sheriff John Holley and that if the Board of Education’s terms were favorable then the County should proceed.

“Clearly the topic has been vetted,” Sauer said. “I think everybody understands the needs.  The Board (of Commissioners) will receive its audit a week ahead of Mrs. White’s.”

In closing her presentation, White informed the Commissioners that the Board of Education’s audited financial statement would be due around Jan. 13, and after it is reviewed, she would meet with Sauer to begin planning the 2015-16 budget.

“Preliminary figures look very strong,” Sauer continued. “The fund balance has grown by more than half-million dollars and the collection rate for taxes has grown.  I think you’re in a position to make an investment, whether you do it this evening or 30 days down the road I don’t know that any factors are going to change.”

Before the Board vote, Commission vice-chair Tammy Lee inquired about a move of the entire Sheriff’s Department to the new location.

“Has Sheriff Holley said anything about moving his whole department there?” Lee asked. “And if he did so then he’s (now) occupying a piece of property that could be put on the market that would offset the money that we’re spending on this building.”

Wesson mentioned the location of the Sheriff’s Evidence Building and how the former Commissioners had talked about moving it from its current location and making that property available for sale as well as others that could be sold to counterbalance the cost.

“If not necessarily looking for a final motion,” Wesson said. “I do like the way it’s been worded so as to give us time to consider our budget, the superintendent’s budget; but it does put a stake in the ground that we are very interested in moving forward.”

White seconded Trent’s motion to enter into negotiations to acquire the Central Office facility and the motion was passed without objection.