County sets special meeting for public comment on Woodlawn School

By Allen Worrell Editor

December 18, 2013

With the annual cost to keep Woodlawn School open to the public estimated at about $150,000, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors has set a special meeting for January 23, 2014 to hear public comments about usage of the building.

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. Supervisors Sam Dickson and Dr. Tom Littrell were appointed to sit on a committee to study Woodlawn School.

During the board of supervisors’ Dec. 9 meeting, Dickson told that the cost to heat Woodlawn School would be roughly $67,000 per year. The boiler is also in bad condition and will cost $30,000 to replace. An underground fuel tank would also cost about $10,000 to remove, he said.

“In the Fall of 2013, the board of supervisors announced the bill to maintain the facility would be in excess of $150,000 per year, and that has not been budgeted,” Dickson said. “So with all the things we’ve got to do, we’ve just added another large cost.”

The board enacted cost-saving measures in December, Dickson said, as the county’s maintenance department found a way to heat just the gym, two classrooms and the wrestling room separate from the rest of the school. The concession stand at the ballfield was also “weatherized” recently. The county has also employed a part-time worker to walk the school to look for potential leaks, forced entry and other potential issues three times a week, Dickson said.

In February, supervisors will speak to the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) about the potential transfer of the property to the IDA for future plans. That will be established with public input, Dickson said.

“In March, we will hopefully hold a public hearing about the potential transfer of Woodlawn School to the IDA and suggest a plan of action,” Dickson said. “For right now, I would like a motion for the board of supervisors to hold a special meeting to hear ideas for the usage of Woodlawn School in the future.”

Dickson then made a motion for the special meeting on January 23 at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Carroll County Governmental Complex. The meeting would be a public input session, not a public hearing, Dickson said, to see what citizens want to do with the building. Supervisor Bob Martin seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Even though the school is closed, it is still being used for many activities. It was used as a voting precinct during the November election. It is also used every Sunday by the Carroll County Special Olympics program. Carroll County High School’s wrestling program also moved its wrestling room from the high school to Woodlawn School after the recent renovations at CCHS.

“Let me make this especially clear, Tom Littrell and myself have not authorized any usage of this building, neither has…anyone else,” Dickson said. “We are allowing them to go and use it. We are not stopping them, but we haven’t told them, ‘Yes, you can go ahead and use it for 20 years.’ That’s not happened. It can be stopped at any time.”

Many athletic teams and groups from the county would like to continue using Woodlawn, Dickson said, including the 9th grade and JV boys’ basketball team, the girls’ varsity basketball team (when the boys aren’t using it), the girls’ 7th and 8th grade basketball teams (for open gym nights), the varsity and JV football programs (from Sept. to Dec.), and JV and varsity baseball teams (from Feb. to May). The Carroll County Recreation Department would also like to use Woodlawn School for basketball, baseball and football. The Carroll County Soccer Association would like access to the field from September to October. CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson has also written the county a letter emphasizing the importance of Woodlawn School to the county’s high school athletic teams.

“He expressed interest for the good of the basketball, boys and girls, football, wrestling and baseball,” Dickson said. “It is very well used so we need to take that into consideration. It is very important to the school system.”

Littrell said some community groups have also expressed interest in possibly using the school and its facilities. Dickson said in the interim, the county could figure out the usage of the building and possibly open it up more. He said a church has also expressed interest in buying part of the land associated with Woodlawn School.

“If we turn it over to the IDA I guess they would have to deal with the IDA as to buying it from them, but there are people that really want to buy that property,” Dickson said. “And they are not looking for the school part, they’re just looking for the land part and the access to the road.”

Board Chairman David Hutchins said the county still needed to approve a resolution for the board of supervisors to accept the property from the Carroll County School Board. The resolution states that the School Board has declared the property surplus and will convey the title to the Board of Supervisors.

“We delayed this last time because there seemed to be some difference of opinion of the School Board members as to who wanted to do what,” Hutchins said. “I don’t know that they ever came to a resolution but we need to move forward, so I would accept a motion that we approve that resolution.”

Supervisor Joshua Hendrick made that motion, which Dickson seconded. The motion passed unanimously.