Still questions with Francisco school

By Nicholas Elmes -

County Commissioners and Francisco area residents are still working out details of how to reuse and save the former Francisco Elementary School.

On Monday, community residents told commissioners they were working hard to develop a sustainable plan for the facility, noting that they had recently gotten approval of a 501C3 non-profit status from the IRS and presenting the board with a blueprint for plans to develop the property over the next 16 months.

Commissioner’s reaffirmed their commitment to working with the community, but news from the county’s insurance company that insuring the property after July 1 could cost as much as $22,000 a year led to a lengthy discussion of how to proceed.

“There are a lot of things that we really did not know at the last meeting when we voted to take the school,” said Commissioner Earnest Lankford, noting that plans to have some non-profit organizations as eventual users of the facility might need to be redirected towards finding paying tenants. “You want to be talking to people who can bring in money to keep the building up.”

While none of the commissioners expressed an interest in reducing the amount of time, 16 months, the county had implied it would give the community to find a way to make the facility self sustaining, commissioners did discuss various ways they could limit the cost of insurance. Those suggestions ranged from installing 24 hour video surveillance to having groups using the facility sign a “hold-harmless” agreement absolving the county from any liability.

County Manager Rick Morris said he would investigate each suggestion before the next board meeting.

Morris will also work with the community to develop the framework for a memorandum of understanding which will clearly define time lines and responsibilities for both the county and the community as they work together to try to save the facility over the coming year.

Chestnut Grove roof

Commissioners also moved toward approving funding for rapid repairs to the Chestnut Grove Middle School roof after hearing from Stokes County Schools Director of Operations David Burge.

“A catastrophic failure could happen there at any time,” said Burge, noting that the roof had been in place for 41 years and recent attempts at repair had revealed damage to parts of the roof’s decking. “We would like to get the funding now so we could get the engineer on board and get this bid out so that when school is out we could start immediately. We do not know what we are going to get into until we take the roof out. The entire deck could need to be replaced.”

He said if that was the case it could add $600,000 to cost of the project.

“We are currently budgeting for 10 percent deck replacement,” he said. “There are going to be some some areas where they are going to have expose the classroom during the repair. The only thing between the classroom and the sky will be the drop ceiling so we do not want to do that while school is in session.”

Board members expressed support for the repair plan and will vote on funding for it at their next meeting.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes

comments powered by Disqus