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Mecklenburg County Supervisors lament state of empty Buckhorn facility
SoVaNow.com / September 18, 2013Jim Jennings, chair of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors’ property committee, this week led members of the panel on a tour of Buckhorn Elementary School after supervisors Bill Blalock and David Brankley raised concerns about the state of disrepair with both the school building and the items stored inside.
Nearly two months ago, the Mecklenburg County School Board voted to give the abandoned school building to the county. Despite the action, employees of the school system have continued to use the facility for storage. According to County Administrator Wayne Carter, only school employees had keys to the building; Carter did not until last week.
After touring the mostly vacant facility, supervisors Brankley and Blalock offered their recollections during two earlier visits to the school building. “The first time we came up here, you wouldn’t believe what it looked like inside,“ said Blalock. “There was water in most of those rooms, 6-8 inches deep. There were boxes of records and boxes of what looked like good stuff to me — equipment and stuff used in the schools and it was all thrown in here in standing water.
“Outside in the back there was a pile of desks about a tractor trailer load just piled up out there on the ground. Looked like pretty good desks to me, and that was the first time.”
In a more recent visit, Blalock said he found “a whole pile of desks and chairs and every kind of equipment piled up there in the middle of the floor, the legs had been sawn off of the desks, and the chairs looked like they had been beat up with a sledge hammer. All piled up in the middle of the floor.”
Jennings chimed in: “You’re asking the taxpayers to invest in a $60- $70 million high school when you’ve got something like this going on. Until you get a layer of credible leadership that doesn’t allow this kind of thing and spends the taxpayer money correctly, you are not going to have support in the community.”
Jennings said the problems identified by Blalock “need to be taken care of. It needs to be cleaned up and I’m not just talking about the building. I’m talking about the whole leadership within the school system, needs to have a more realistic, sensible, approach to how taxpayer money is spent.”
Carter, the county administrator, said the county has limited options for deriving value from the building.
“Once it’s cleaned out, and some of the things that are left — like the kitchen equipment that is permanently attached to the ground — you can sell on govdeals” (Govdeals.com is an online site offering deals on government surplus property.)
He also suggested, “You can sell the mobile units and determine whether to sell school.” The last school facility sold by the Board of Supervisors was the old South Hill Elementary School, which was sold on sealed bid.
Dan Tanner shared a new concern, regarding blight. “I don’t want to see this building and this 10 acres of property sit here and be an eyesore for this community. If we can’t sell it we need to get a bulldozer and push it down. The 10 acres can be used for something.”
Tanner’s sentiment stemmed from what he said he witnesses daily in South Hill with the old elementary school. “The one in the middle of South Hill is an absolute disgrace to the town of South Hill. They keep the front yard cut, but ride around the back and the weeds are this tall …. The playground equipment is still sitting there just like it was. If you and I owned a house like that on the street, [the town] would be sending us a bill each month to cut the grass, or take us to court to make us pay for it.”
A motion was made by Glanzy Spain for Carter to “get with school and identify what [property] the school wants and after that for [Carter] to go ahead and sell the valuable pieces on govdeals.”
The motion passed with only Blalock voting in opposition. “Someone need to look at things already taken out and placed in central storage, and see if some of that stuff needs to stay with the building as it will be more valuable if it stays with the building.” He also suggested having a consultant “look at the building to determine if it has a future use.”
Blalock told members of the committee, “We need to know what’s taken place with the stuff removed so far. I would like somebody to be accountable.”
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