City seeks land for future library expansion

Published 8:30 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington is pursuing a piece of property at the corner of Bridge and West Second streets in order to accommodate a future expansion of the city-owned Brown Library.
During its meeting July 26, the City Council authorized the purchase of the property owned by Floyd Banks. The purchase price is $115,000, according to an agreement for purchase of sale of real property. The property, formerly known as Pamlico Auto Center, is located at 131 Bridge St.
The library sits between Van Norden Street on the east, West Main Street on the south, West Second Street on the north and Bridge Street on the west.
Councilman Doug Mercer, who said he doesn’t usually like the city being in the real-estate business, favors the purchase for several reason.
First, buying the property now instead of in the future should result in the city obtaining the property at a lower cost than it would pay if it waited to buy the property.
“Then you’ve got the opportunity to rent it” until the library is expanded onto the property, Mercer said.
The city can’t count on acquiring the houses on West Main Street that abut the existing library property, he said. That leaves the southeast corner at Bridge and West Second Street and the northeast corner at Bridge and West Main Street as areas for expansion, Mercer said. The city already owns the Bridge Street frontage between those two corners, making that stretch of Bridge Street from West Main to West Second streets the logical place to expand the library, he said.
“I see lots of possibilities in that,” Mercer said.
Because a service station was located on the property at one time, there were some concerns about acquiring the property.
“Inasmuch as there was one a service station located on the site we requested the City Attorney’s office review any files at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources … regarding the property,” wrote City Manager James C. Smith in a memorandum to the mayor and council.
The department’s Underground Storage Tanks Division provided the city documents regarding previous environmental testing and sampling at the property, the memorandum states.
“The laboratory report submitted showed ‘a very low-level of the total petroleum hydrocarbons.’ It appears that most of the samples were obtained from the boundaries of the property as concrete pavement of an old foundation was encountered preventing the taking of samples from certain areas,” the memorandum reads.
The memorandum indicates that St. Clair Trucking removed fuel storage tanks from the property May 15, 1995.
“The executed terms of our offer to purchase the property include a provision that the City may elect to have an environmental assessment performed. The City has until August 30 to make a selection and notify Mr. Banks accordingly. … If the City Council decides not to proceed with an environmental assessment we should require the current owner to execute a proper indemnification agreement with the City should any environmental issues arise in the future and also consider obtaining environmental contamination insurance,” reads the memorandum.