Mountain Projects will soon have a new home

By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 20, 2017
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Once renovations are complete at the former Haywood County Health Department building, Mountain Projects, Inc. will be moving from its current location on Old Balsam Road near the Haywood/Jackson county line.

After a seven-year vacancy, the former Haywood County Health Department will be a buzz of activity once again.

This week, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners agreed to finance the building sale to Mountain Projects, Inc., an area action agency overseeing 21 programs and a $13.3 million budget.

Under a contract being prepared, the county will sell the building for $325,000 at the going interest rate for federal rural development loans, 3.25 percent.

After hearing from Patsy Davis, the organization’s executive director, and Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown, who is the chairman of the agency’s governing board, the commissioners unanimously approved the request to sell the county building and finance it as well.

The former health department has been on the market for years, and efforts to sell it have been fruitless. Meanwhile, there is the expense of maintaining the building, which will go away when the sale is finalized.

“We’re probably doing you gentlemen a favor by taking it off your hands,” joked Brown during the discussion.

The county had agreed last year to sell the building to Mountain Projects after the organization learned they were eligible for a USDA Rural Development loan, which was to be available last October and had a 40-year payback period. A federal decision resulted in the loan program not being available.

“We’re asking you to sell us a building that’s 60 years old and asking you to finance it for a short period of time while we obtain a USDA loan,” Brown told the commissioners. “We want to start work right away to start serving our community better as fast as possible.”

The agency has $300,000 on hand to begin renovation, and is accepting contributions from government entities, as well as individuals, to complete the $632,000 renovation project. Brown said the agency would like the loan to be written for a 40-year term, but with a balloon payment at the end of five years, meaning the agency would pay off the county while the unpaid balance would be financed either through USDA or a conventional lending source.

The commissioners noted the arrangement is something that’s been done before by the county, and that with the building being empty and for sale for so long, selling it to Mountain Projects would be a benefit to all parties.

Brown said the building will be a bit larger than is needed by Mountain Projects, so there will be about 3,000 square feet of space available for rent or lease to other nonprofit agencies.

The agency is currently located near the Haywood/Jackson county line, which is a convenient site since programs serve both counties. However, the 90-year-old former Saunook school building is simply no longer practical or safe. The commissioners asked if Jackson County officials were on board with the move, and Davis said they were.