Elementary facility going up for sale

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2007

By Staff
County commissioners have first option to buy
Staff Writer
While in the throes of building a new elementary school in Washington, Beaufort County school officials are hoping to sell an Aurora elementary school building.
Both efforts are thanks to bonds that allowed the school system to renovate, construct and update facilities at five locations.
As part of that initiative, S.W. Snowden Elementary and Aurora Middle School will be consolidated into the expanded middle school facility on North Seventh Street, which will assume the Snowden Elementary name.
The soon-to-be-abandoned elementary facility on N.C. Highway 306 could be on the open market once the consolidation is complete.
The Beaufort County commissioners have first right of refusal on purchasing the facility at fair market value.
At the county’s board of education meeting Monday, school board members unanimously approved offering the property to the county for purchase.
Superintendent Jeff Moss said the facility was appraised at $39,000.
That’s as is, Moss said.
The estimate had the cost of demolition built into it because appraisers deemed the building had no reuse value, Moss said.
The price of the property without the facility is $240,000, he said.
The school building is near the proposed site of an alcohol-grade fuel production facility predicted to be the first ethanol plant to be built on the East Coast. No site work has started on the long-anticipated project, and company officials have said groundbreaking and construction is awaiting financial components to fall into place.
Board Chairman Robert Belcher said Monday that state law requires school boards to offer counties first dibs on any property to be disposed of.
If the commissioners turn down the offer to buy the property, then the school board can sell or dispose of the N.C. 306 property at its discretion.
Moss suggested the school board follow the same upset bid process that was used to dispose of the old P.S. Jones Middle School facility on East Eighth Street in Washington.
Two of five bond projects have been completed to date — including the replacement of P.S. Jones — and the rest are currently under way.
The fifth and final bond project — building a brand-new John Small Elementary School in Washington to replace the 50-year-old grades 4-5 facility — began preparatory site work last week. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2008.
The combined grades K-8 school in Aurora was set for completion in February 2007 but has been delayed by construction setbacks.
The Aurora schools consolidation project came with a $4.5 million price tag, 10 percent more than was estimated when the bond figures were derived in 2002.
Every project came in over budget because of a skyrocketing construction market, which sent school officials scrounging for other revenue sources to fully fund all projects pitched in phase one of a three-phase bond initiative.
The five-school first phase was funded out of $33 million raised by the sale of bonds approved by Beaufort County voters in 2004. When all the construction projects to the five facilities are complete, the total cost of the school-improvement package likely will top $39 million. The bond money was earmarked for the construction of two replacement schools in Washington, the renovations and additions of two schools in Bath and Chocowinity and the conversion of Aurora Middle School into a K-8 facility.
The addition to Aurora Middle is being built between the existing school facility and the gymnasium.
While the addition is being built, a safety fence and temporary walkway have been installed so that students can continue school activities.
The elementary and middle-school students already share buses and some teachers. Snowden’s cafeteria also prepares the food for the middle school students.