By Jesse Wood
Update: Banner Elk Town Council has scheduled a special meeting on Friday, Sept. 5 to discuss this matter. Click here for more on this issue.
Sept. 2, 2014. The Town of Banner Elk may be the new owner of the old Banner Elk Elementary School, which currently houses the A.C. Pride business incubator and is owned by Avery County. The school closed down in 2011.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Avery County Board of Commissioners were in unanimous agreement in offering the old school property to the Town of Banner Elk for $1 million. The purchase would include a 12-year payment plan with annual payments being approximately $83,000.
In lieu of interest, the Town of Banner Elk has agreed to pay for the first 25,000 gallons of water usage that Avery County Schools uses each month for 12 years. Avery County Board of Commissioners Chair Kenny Poteat noted that ACS Supt. David Burleson said that would save the Avery County Board of Education $30,000 to $50,000 throughout the term of the interest-free loan.
Poteat noted that the businesses currently in the incubator would be able to stay the full length of their three-year lease that those enterprises initially signed. All of the businesses – Bear Real Estate Mountain, Bailey Drapery & Design and Highland Pro Clean – have two to three years still left on the life of their lease.
The sell agreement would be effective Oct. 1, 2014.
“Maybe I am the only one who feels this way … but for many years I have felt [and not just in an election year] the best owner of that property was Banner Elk and we are getting mighty close, and I hope it works. Just want to say that. I’ve truly felt that for several years now,” Poteat said before the vote.
Banner Elk Town Manager Rick Owen was in attendance – along with the entire Banner Elk Town Council – on Tuesday.
Before the commissioners’ vote, Poteat told Owen that if the motion to sell the old school to Banner Elk passed that his work “begins immediately.” Owen, who has discussed this issue with Poteat numerous times recently, told the board that the mayor would call a special meeting and the council would meet as soon as it could without violating the meeting notice timeframe.
The business incubator has been a controversial topic for Avery County in the past couple years and was the impetus for one commissioner to pen an essay called “The Great Divide.” Flat Top Brewing Company had plans to join the business incubator in 2013 before the commissioners shot the proposal down because of the sell of alcohol. The mayor of Banner Elk then came out in support of finding Flat Top Brewing Company a home in Banner Elk.
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