By Paul T. Choate
June 1, 2012. On Tuesday, June 5, beginning at 8 a.m. Watauga County commissioners will hold a public hearing regarding the demolition of the old Watauga High School.
Public comments will be taken on the demolition proposal.
This meeting comes after Commissioner David Blust was adamant about holding a public hearing on the matter at a May 15 meeting.
“I think there are millions of dollars up at that high school,” Blust said to High Country Press on June 1. “That property belongs to the people of the county, not the commissioners … Is the building in that bad a shape? There are some broken windows but it’s structurally sound as far as I know.”
Blust also added that he believes there are a couple of commissioners who are dead set on demolishing it no matter what comes out of the June 5 meeting, but hopes his comments and public comments from county residents can change the other commissioners’ minds.
“I definitely want a public hearing. I’ll go on record and say that. I have heard from so many people … and not talking just two or three,” said Blust at the May 15 meeting. “This property belongs to citizens of the county – big property. I think we need a public hearing.”
Commissioners Jim Deal, Tim Futrelle and Vince Gable were all opposed to a public hearing, citing a lack of any added benefit for holding one.
“I just don’t see what we are going to gain. Somebody can say you can do this and do that with it but haven’t done engineering studies. Unless they did that, [they do] have info we can rely on,” said Deal at the May 15 meeting. “What’s the benefit of a public hearing? Are we going to find information that we don’t already know about the condition of the building?”
Despite opposition, the vote ended up being 4-0 in favor of the public hearing.
“As an accommodation for Blust, I will vote for it, even though I think it is a waste of time,” said Deal.
The old high school has been empty since the summer of 2010. Since it was vacated it has been subject to many instances of vandalism and arson.
If demolition goes forward, NEO Corp. of Canton will be contracted to do the work. They submitted the lowest bid at $361,750. The facilities that will be demolished include the main building and the health occupation building, which NEO Corp. bid at $328,000, and the visitors and home concessions, field house, and park and recreation restrooms, which NEO Corp. bid at $33,750.
Blust described the $361,750 bid as “laughable.” He said that once they get started he expects they will realize it will cost the county much more than that for demolition.
Watauga County has until Wednesday, June 6, to accept or decline NEO Corp.’s bid. NEO Corp. is expected to begin the project in early June.
The hearing will be held at the Administration Building in Boone, located at 814 W. King St.
For more information, call 828-265-8000.