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Watauga Commissioners Agree To Spend $7,000 To Fix Drainage Issues at Historic Cove Creek School

By Jesse Wood

Dec. 20, 2013. Jack Simpson, one of few original surviving board members of the Cove Creek Preservation & Development, appeared before the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to request the use of county personnel, equipment and funds to repair drainage issues behind the historic Cove Creek School, which the county leases to the CCP&D.

Photo by Jesse Wood

Moisture within the 9,000-square-foot crawlspace has been an ongoing issue, and the CCP&D board believes that the problem is mostly attributable to lack of drainage. County Manager Deron Geouque noted that potential wet springs beneath the building and the roof slope could possibly negate the drying and conditioning of the crawlspace.

“Staff would be hesitant to make any guarantees that this work will alleviate the current situation but is a step toward the solution of the ongoing drainage issues,” Geouque wrote in a memo to commissioners.

Geouque presented the commissioners with two options:

  • utilize county resources including equipment rental, materials and supplies and construction management, estimated to cost $7,000
  • hire an engineer for $12,000 to review the drainage site and develop a plan of action with expected additional costs

“We could spend $7,000 [for the cheaper option] and have the same problems,” Geouque said.

Simpson noted that the CCP&D was prepared to spend $50,000 to dry and condition the crawlspace, however Simpson said it was “futile” if the drainage problem isn’t solved.

Citing the quality work of county personnel, Chair Nathan Miller said he was “inclined” to go the $7,000 route. 

After noting that the county owns the property and that 34 people are employed at the old school within private community enterprises, Yates made a motion to approve the $7,000 option and address the issue again if any problems arise. 

The motion was passed unanimously, after which Commissioner Billy Kennedy mentioned that the restoration of the historic school has been a “great example of a public-private” undertaking. 

The school closed in 1995, and shortly thereafter, the CCP&D formed to save the structure from demolition. In 1998, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2000, the CCP&D board received a $225,000 loan from the county to assist in renovating the historic school that was originally a WPA project in the ‘30s. CCP&D repaid $117,000 of the loan, and the county forgave the remaining $108,000 because of CCP&D improvements to the county-owned facility.

In the past 10 years, as Simpson noted to the commissioners, CCP&D has spent $1,000,000 on capital improvements and special maintenance on the building and has put in a considerable amount of “sweat equity,” too.

The historic school and grounds are home to the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove and museum, Farm Heritage Days, Sugar Grove Development Day School, Jung Tao School of Chinese Medicine and a woodworking shop. Along with the park, the gym is used for community recreational purposes.