HC officials seek transfer of old AES property

Published 3:29 pm Friday, September 30, 2022

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WINTON – Hertford County Local Government officials are in the early stages of developing a plan that will transform the old Ahoskie Elementary School into an economic development hub.

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 19, the county’s board of commissioners approved a letter, signed by board chair Ronald Gating, to Shelia Porter, chair of the Hertford County Board of Education, that expressed the county’s interest in obtaining the school property.

The county’s board of education opened the new Ahoskie Elementary School in August of 2021, replacing the old facility that had served students since 1959.

Gatling’s letter mentioned that the commissioners envision partnering with the school system, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, local municipalities, and other strategic stakeholders to open an economic development hub inside the old school. That effort, he said, will assist “start-up businesses.”

“As you know, small businesses collectively serve as the economic backbone of our nation,” Gatling stated in the letter. “Therefore, the importance of small businesses to Hertford County’s long term economic viability cannot be overstated.”

He asked the school board to permit a negotiated transfer of the property.

Following the meeting, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald posed several questions to Hertford County Manager David Cotton in an effort to learn more about this proposed project. He said county officials are currently in the early stages of discussing potential concepts and ideas for the property.

“I am confident that economic development will be a primary focus [of the project]. Once we move into the planning phase I will be able to share a comprehensive vision for the property,” Cotton said.

He added that the commissioners’ economic development vision is broad in scope.

“As it pertains to the acquisition of the former Ahoskie Elementary School furthering their vision, it will dovetail well into the board’s goal of establishing new business growth,” Cotton noted. “The commissioners recognize that 99 percent of employers in the United States are small businesses. Therefore, providing new businesses an incubator site to assist them with launching their business will hopefully increase their probability of success as well as encourage businesses to establish themselves in our community.”

When asked about the county’s projected cost in acquiring the property, Cotton said no dollar amounts have been discussed at this time. He added that funding sources, to possibly include seeking grants or using the county’s share of American Rescue Plan money it received, will be discussed and identified as part of the planning process.

“Since we are still in the concept phase, we do not have an estimated costs or cost range of renovations to the building since a scope of work has not been developed yet,” Cotton stated.

He added that a timeline will identified as part of the scope of work and master plan for the buildings and site.

“The county will actively market the site and services once it is operational. However, all of the details, standard operating procedures, potential costs will be part of the business plan for the site,” Cotton concluded.

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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