Carroll may consider housing for Woodlawn School

By Allen Worrell

April 27, 2014

With the cost to continue operating Woodlawn School estimated at more than $235,000 for Fiscal Year 2014-15, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors continue to look at other options for the building, one of which may be community housing.

During the board’s April 14 meeting, Supervisor Tom Littrell noted that he and supervisor Sam Dickson have been tasked with looking at possibilities for Woodlawn School. A public hearing has already been held to hear citizen’s comments on the school, which closed its doors prior to the current school year. One possibility was to continue to use the school’s ball fields and gym, and possibly the cafeteria area for the kitchen. But there may not be a lot of need for the rest of the building.

Littrell said he and Dickson joined County Administrator Gary Larrowe recently to visit with Community Housing Partners of Christiansburg. During the trip, the group visited two rehabilitated buildings, the first of which was a former school in Pembrooke. The building is now 27 apartments, some efficiencies, others one- and two-bedrooms.

“The Community Housing Partners in that particular case are the managers of the property and we had a chance to visit and look at the apartments,” Littrell said. “Some work had originally been for housing to that community. Apparently it was a great need that has been filled.”

On the same trip, the local delegation also visited a former school in Lynchburg that is in the midst of being rehabilitated. The building was set to be finished by the end of 2014.

“There was a lot of sawdust on the floor, but we could see the potential. They had taken the classrooms and divided them up into various apartments,” Littrell said. “In both cases they were able to receive all kinds of grants like Historical Building Grants and some other things…I think it is something we do need to pursue at least as a possibility, an option for the use of that building, because otherwise it is going to be a constant financial drain on the county. That is not a recommendation. That is just simply a report.”

In both cases, Littrell said the gym was “cut off” and other parts of the building were to be used as community resources. In Woodlawn’s case, he said it would be very feasible to leave the gym and the other part of the building on the left as community facilities. The rest of the building could possibly be used for something else.

Dickson said the Lynchburg property was sold to developers for more than $200,000 with the agreement that the money would be spent back on the gym to bring an impact to the area. Developers would then lease the gym to the city.

“Even though they got money for it, they had to spend it right back. It worked out real well. They were real pleased,” Dickson said. “Once they get them done - the affordability of the apartment - I thought it was very doable.”

Dickson said apartments Carroll officials looked at were in the range of $400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

“That is very doable and Lynchburg had a waiting list of over 200 I think,” Dickson said. “Like Tom, I am not saying that is what we need to do with Woodlawn, but I am saying that is a possibility.”

“And the folks who rehab these places spend several million dollars to do so, and I am sure that money is spent in the community,” Littrell added.

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN