During their 2023-2024 fiscal year budget workshop on May 11th, the Avery County Board of Commissioners approved selling the old Avery CARES Building and the property on which it sits in Newland.
All commissioners-Chairwoman Martha Hicks, Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips, Dennis Aldridge, Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. and Robert Burleson were present at the workshop.
Unlike a regular monthly, bi-monthly, special called or emergency meeting, a Board of Commissioners cannot take a vote on any issue or issues during a workshop by State of North Carolina law. However, commissioners can take action concerning an issue or issues by a consensus.
The commissioners had planned to demolish the building due to its various physical and structure defects, including decaying of its flooring and walls and the presence of asbestos and black mold, and build a new probation office complex on the site.
The building was surveyed by a State of North Carolina Accredited Asbestos Inspector, who found it contained exposed asbestos and exposed black mold. Other inspectors also discovered both harmful substances in the building. As a result of its physical and structure problems and the presence of those substances, the State of North Carolina informed the county that the building needed to be completely repaired and the asbestos and black mold in it removed or it should be demolished, according to Hicks.
However, some county citizens expressed opposition to demolishing it, stating the need to restore and retain the 80-plus year old building because of its historical significance and not wanting a new probation complex built on the same site. Some also encouraged the commissioners to submit the building for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which would legally keep it from being torn down. And a few representatives of county, town and state businesses also inquired about buying it from the county.
Hicks said that it would not be economically feasible for the county to spend approximately $100,000.00, and perhaps even closer to $200,000.00, to make all the needed repairs to the building and that the commissioners were all opposed to that as it “would be such a financial burden to the county’s taxpayers as a whole.”
She added that selling it is a good option for the county, while declaring that such a sale will be “as-is because the county will not assume any responsibility or liability for the building or the land it sits on in any manner after a sale.”
Hocks said the sale will be conducted through a bidding process during a certain time period, with the highest bidder being sold the building and property where it sits. She added that bids will be publicly opened and read aloud during an upcoming Board of Commissioners meeting.
County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said County Attorney Michaelle Poore will determine the details of the bidding process and that they will be announced soon.
The granite and frame Avery CARES Building, located at 636 Cranberry Street, was built between 1939 and 1940 by the National Youth Administration (NYA), which was part of the New Deal Agencies established by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In its early years, the NYA was a division of the Works Progress Administration, which focused on providing to young Americans between the ages of 16 and 25. Because its participants were of young ages, the NYA was a means to learn and gain experience in building trades while earning an income. And unlike other New Deal programs, the NYA employed young women as well as young men. The NYA performed many public works projects.
The building has served many purposes including: First Library for Avery County; a Community Center; Garden Club for Women, Sock Hops, a teen club with live bands and singers, proms, WAMY, veterans’ groups meetings, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, dance lessons (gatherings), boy scouts (meetings) and the housing of a thrift store for Yellow Mountain Mental Health.
Hicks also said that a new complex to house the probation services will be built on another site because a sale would include both the Avery CARES Building and land where it is located. The county has already advertised for qualified contractors to bid on the new modular probation office project. It’s bidding ended on May 5th. More details about that will also be announced during a Board of Commissioners meeting in the near future.
Construction on the probation office project is expected to begin in the summer of 2023. It will be approximately 1,575 square foot in size and will consist of five offices, a lobby reception office, breakroom and two restrooms.
The commissioners will hold another workshop on Monday, May 15th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. in their board room, located on the top floor of the Avery County Administration Building at 175 Linville Street in Newland.
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