Pitt County’s Board of Commissioners will not be upgrading a 74-year-old piece of school property.
The board, which met remotely, declined the right of first refusal on an offer to purchase the old Stokes School gym on N.C. 903 with a 7-2 vote on Monday after discussing the cost of rehabbing the building.
Pitt County Schools notified the county in December that the school system had received a $10,000 offer to purchase the two buildings and surrounding 1.2 acres of land.
The system reported it had not demolished the buildings because abating environmental issues would be costly. In 2015 it was determined demolition would cost approximately $250,000. The potential buyer wants to use the buildings for storage.
The board at December’s meeting decided to delay a decision after Commissioner Chris Nunnally suggested the possibility of using American Rescue Plan Act funding to create a community center.
Tim Corley, county engineer, said Monday that staff and commissioners visited the site last week. Rough numbers on bringing the building back to operational use would come around $1.25-$1.65 million, Corley said. Environmental health concerns stem from septic issues, asbestos and lead paint.
Staff said that the building was unfit and too costly to become a community center. At Monday’s meeting Nunnally also said that he was concerned about the building continuing to fall into disrepair under new ownership. The property is adjacent to the current Stokes School property.
“I am worried about it falling into a worse situation than it already is for that community,” Nunnally said.
The 7-2 vote cleared the way for the school system to sell the former gymnasium and cafeteria, which was in use from 1948-2004. Nunnally and Commissioner Alex Allbright voted against the sale.
Staff on Monday also presented feedback on where the public wants American Rescue Plan funds invested. Brian Barnett, Pitt County chief financial officer, said that the community appreciated the opportunity for input and liked having sessions around the county.
No singular need was touched on, he said. A public comment session in northern Pitt County in November saw citizens call for expanded broadband services north of the Tar River, help with food insecurities and health services in the Pactolus and Clark’s Neck area.
At a session at Alice Keene District Park on Nov. 29, community members mostly asked for recreation opportunities and gym facilities. A Farmville session on Dec. 7 noted food insecurity, child care and job training, expansion to the Community Crossroad Center for isolation rooms, help to address human trafficking and business assistance for those who were forced to close due to the pandemic.
Following Barnett’s presentation on community feedback the board tasked staff with finding a date for a workshop where they can better discuss allocating funding. Gallagher recommended the meeting be in person and offered that the board should wait until at least February.
The county on Thursday announced the meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the Eugene James Auditorium, 1717 W. Fifth St. The meeting will be in person with no public comments.
During her report Monday County Manager Janis Gallagher said there is optimism that the board will be back in person or on a hybrid basis by their next meeting on Feb. 7.
Gallagher, who assumed the role of manager on Dec. 31, also introduced her leadership team with a brief video during her report: Barnett; Corley; Michael Taylor as chief information officer; Sam Croom as revenue and growth/tax administrator; Florida Hardy as human resources director; and James Rhodes as planning director.
The following items were approved as part of the board’s consent agenda:
- A $31,737 budget amendment in state excise tax by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
- A lease program for buyout properties.
- Resolutions honoring sheriff’s office retirements of Clemmie German and Kenneth Ross.
- An ordinance amendment regarding the Pitt County Human Relations Commission.
- A training exception request for strategic public leadership.