By Nathan Ham
On Thursday, the Watauga County Board of Education voted to extend the contract of the Hodges Property in Valle Crucis for another 45 days. The property is the current proposed location of where the new Valle Crucis School will be constructed.
According to Garrett Price, the director of communications for Watauga County Schools, the extension includes an additional payment of $5,000 that will be applied to the final purchase price for that property.
“The extension the board requested stems from a delay in the state permitting process. The state official who specializes in the model and analysis being used at the property has bee out of work due to an illness,” Price said. “The official is back at work this week and is now reviewing the most recent tests. The delay made it unlikely that a permit would have been issued by the March 16 due diligence deadline so the board voted to extend the contract.”
The 14.4-acre piece of property in Valle Crucis had been chosen previously as the tract of land to replace the current school that is over 80 years old and has had to deal with considerable flooding issues over the years.
The property, purchased at $1.1 million, has undergone significant testing that has included environmental assessments, wetland evaluation, well-drilling assessments as well as septic and soil assessments.
“The soil reports we have received so far have been positive and the soil drains very well,” Price said. “The board of education wants to exhaust all questions and considerations about the viability of the site and may conduct additional testing as part of the permitting process.”
Price says that the school board still anticipates that the property purchase will continue on once permits have been approved and all testing is completed.
“Pending the positive outcome of the septic test and permit, we are not aware of any other reason to delay the purchase. The board heard several concerns from the public about the viability of a septic system on this site, so we are taking our time and being as thorough as possible,” Price said.
There will be a final vote taken by the school board that will finalize the purchase of the property.