Old elementary school may be sold to Folkmoot

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Dec 21, 2013
Photo by: Jane Falkenstein Richland Garden Club member Patty Felder and Linda Sheinfeld (bottom) and Karen Babcock, Dave Stallings, and Doug Garrett of Folkmoot USA (top) are pictured in front of the Friendship Center that is used annually for Folkmoot. The building, previously Hazelwood Elementary School, was declared surplus and will be sold to Folkmoot.

The Haywood County Board of Education voted last week to declare buildings A and B of the old Hazelwood Elementary School as surplus property so the Haywood County Board of Commissioners may sell it to Folkmoot.

Currently, building C of the former school is being used as the Alternative Learning Center.

During a Dec. 10 meeting, Tracy Hargrove, director of maintenance for Haywood County Schools, explained how both of the 55,000 square-foot buildings were dilapidated. The buildings are approximately 85 years old.

“This is the property that Folkmoot has been using for several years and Haywood County Schools is not using it for anything,” Hargrove said. “The problem that we have right now is, we as a system do not have money to do renovations and upkeep that are necessary for that building to remain in good shape.”

Hargrove said the biggest issues with the buildings were the roof and ceiling. He estimated it would cost $2 million in repairs to bring the school back up to the standard to allow Haywood County Students back inside.

"Something is going to have to be done pretty quickly or it’s just going to absolutely disintegrate into nothing,” Hargrove said. “The heating, electrical, the plumbing — pretty much everything in (buildings) A and B are in pretty bad shape.”

Hargrove said he also looked into demolishing the buildings, but said that too would be costly.

“We looked to see what it would take for the demolition of those buildings and there is quite a bit of asbestos,” Hargrove said. “We’ve got a price from a local contractor who deals with asbestos and they projected a minimum of $450,000 for the demolition of that property.”

Hargrove said there was no way the school could foot that bill. He said the only legal funding that was available for facilities came from capital funding from the county and from lottery proceeds.

“That’s all we have, and we surely cannot spend any of that money on a building we don’t even use,” Hargrove said.

Pat Smathers, attorney for Haywood County Schools, said he had been in discussions with the county about the building for the past two years. He said selling the building to Folkmoot was the most cost effective choice for the school system.

“Folkmoot has been using it and they have expressed an interest in continuing to use it and acquiring the building, which would be beneficial to the community,” Smathers said. “And because it’s going to cost us more to tear it down and fix it for our purposes. They seem to have a valid need and a good purpose to use it and can utilize it.”

Legally, the school system could not sell the property, but could offer it to the county, Smathers said.

“They are the taxing authority and we are not, so they of course can convey it and do whatever they want to with it,” Smathers said.

Smathers recommended that the board declare buildings A and B as surplus and then later offer it to the county for the sum of $1.

“Of course the county is in the same situation, they don’t have a lot of money to spend,” Smathers said.

Board members unanimously voted to declare A and B buildings surplus property unnecessary and undesirable, clearing the way for it to be sold for the sum $1.

Karen Babcock, Folkmoot's executive director, said it has always been a dream to have a permanent home for the organization. The current lease expires 2015, and the board will be voting at a future date on purchasing it.

"With a leased building, there's never been a feeling of permanence," said Babcock. "We'd like to put on more programs and be a better community partner."

While there are a lot of repairs needed for the building — repairs that have been impractical to tackle in the past with a leased building — Babcock said renovation will be required if Folkmoot is to expand as envisioned.

A capital campaign will move into full swing early next year if the board votes to acquire the building. Before that can happen, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners will need to agree they have no use for the building.


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