By a split vote of 4-2, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors voted June 9 to transfer Woodlawn School to the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
With the renovations of Carroll County Middle School and Carroll County High School, as well as grade restructuring at both schools, the more than 100-year-old Woodlawn School was closed at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The Carroll County Board of Supervisors took over ownership of the building several months ago from the Carroll County School Board.
Following a public hearing June 9 regarding the transfer of the school building, Supervisor Joshua Hendrick expressed concerns about the building going to the IDA. He noted supervisors Tom Littrell and Sam Dickson have looked at possible uses for Woodlawn, none of which are industrial in scale, but more focused on community development.
Hendrick said there is still a huge need for the gym and ball fields at the school by the county’s rec department and school system. The county put $200,000 into the upkeep of the building this year, he added.
“I am going to assume the IDA is probably not going to be able to maintain the building at that level,” Hendrick said. “In my opinion, I would like for it to remain with the board of supervisors because I think we can still explore options for some of the projects Sam and (Tom) were talking about unless the IDA has something specific they can do we can’t at this time.”
County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained that the Carroll County IDA has taking on similar projects in the past. The Authority has spoken about the need for the gym and fields at the school, and they would not stop that.
“Anything the IDA did would encourage that and would end up moving forward with a continued use of that. One of things the county did last year was separate off the building because there was heating and cooling available there,” Larrowe said. “I feel certain the IDA could still do that and it would allow the IDA to put out a (Request for Proposals) for future development of that property outside the gym, so something wouldn’t be built on those areas that needed to be served.”
Hendrick said such a transfer wouldn’t be anything new in the county, but he would prefer for the board to keep Woodlawn School. Dickson agreed with Hendrick that supervisors need to keep the school, at least for the time being.
“When we get to a closer point where it needs to be transferred or moved, we could transfer it then. But we haven’t looked at the possibilities of the rec department of what may be used,” Dickson said. “They may have RFPs they are trying to get on the building and we may decide we need to be there.”
Littrell said most county properties are owned by the IDA, so its ownership wouldn’t prevent the county from using the school building the way it wanted. Larrowe said it would be similar to the recent HVAC and STEM Lab projects at Carroll County High School.
“You had to have an entity with a stream of income, which is why there were leases involved to the school system and so forth, but the IDA carried on the project,” Larrowe said.
But Dickson asked why supervisors would give the building to the IDA when the rec department would still be using the gym and ball fields at Woodlawn School.
“That is the prerogative of the board,” Larrowe said.
No citizens spoke during the public hearing. Supervisor Bob Martin said he didn’t see any point in transferring the building if the rec department is going to be the entity primarily using the building.
“It would probably take 15 minutes to get together if another entity wanted to buy it,” Martin said.
County Attorney Jim Cornwell noted that would require another public hearing, however, as well as advertising for a public hearing.
“I don’t see an issue if you do transfer it. If you needed to do something different, they could transfer it back much easier than we could do it to them, and if it is there we don’t have to do another public hearing,” Board Chairman David Hutchins said. “I am in absolute agreement with Mr. Hendrick and Mr. Dickson that we need to retain use of the gym and the ball fields. I don’t see that changing, however, the budget committee will agree eventually we will have to find some funding source to do something, and it would allow the IDA to better look for something to do that. But I don’t see we are losing anything, any control piece of it. If we did, it would still be used the same way.”
Supervisor Phil McCraw said he agreed the board needed to retain control of the gym and ball fields at Woodlawn. He believed the county could still do that even if the building was transferred to the IDA.
“We have done it in the past and for that reason I make the motion to transfer it to IDA,” McCraw said.
Littrell seconded the motion, which passed by a 4-2 count. Hendrick and Dickson cast the two no votes against the transfer.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN