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RSS board votes to use upset bid process on Faith property

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education approved on Monday voted to dispose of the Faith Elementary property in a way differently than it planned roughly one week ago.

The district will begin a negotiated offer with an upset bid process on the property as the method of disposal. If a party makes an offer, Rowan-Salisbury Schools can begin an upset bid process where others interested can counter. Vann said the board does not have to entertain an unrealistic offer.

The process is one of several available to school boards to dispose of surplus property under statute.

Faith and Enochville Elementary Schools are set to close permanently this June. The district needed to offer the county first right of refusal on properties when it intends to dispose of them. In the case of Faith Elementary, the county passed on using the property. Enochville, along with an old Landis school facility on Zion Street, were tabled by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Currently, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education doesn’t have an offer on Faith Elementary. A $250,000 offer from Faith Academy, a new charter school slated to open in the town this fall, was rescinded on Feb. 15 because of the expiry date on the offer and time constraints the charter is under to set up classrooms.

The charter board was interested in securing the property in time to begin classes, but its board voted to move ahead with bringing in mobile classrooms at Shiloh Reformed Church for its first year.

After that charter meeting, Faith Academy Board Chair George Wilhelm said the school would still be interested in the property in the future, but it needed to spend money elsewhere.

The charter sent a letter to RSS from Wilhelm and the school board notifying the district of the board decision.

“We too are a North Carolina Public School with the interests of students at heart, and we follow NCDPI guidelines and standards as well as you do,” the letter states.

An appraisal of the property prepared by Timothy Tallent also was given to the board on Monday. It ascribed a $2.25 million value to the Faith Elementary property. The property has a tax value of about $2.6 million.

The appraisal compared the property to similar ones in larger markets, including large municipalities such as Durham and Winston-Salem. Faith is home to fewer than 1,000 people. The appraisal included a footnote noting similar properties are “sold primarily to charter schools, churches or daycare facilities.”

The board voted to wait on the appraisal before taking next steps on disposal two weeks ago while the Faith Elementary property was still on the table.

Board members and Brian Hightower and Travis Allen both dissented on the decision to wait for the appraisal. Hightower reiterated his disagreement on Monday.

Allen said the board missed out on the offer from Faith Academy and had two members who wanted to proceed with the negotiation and upset bid process at the time.

Hightower told board member Dean Hunter to “learn to read,” after an exchange about the expiration date for the Faith Academy offer.

Hunter said a comment referencing his own experience on the board was not intended as a derogatory comment toward Hightower, the board’s newest member. Hunter said the board has a responsibility to perform due diligence and he does not believe it did anything wrong.

“That might have been the best shot we had at getting the most out of it, who knows,” Hunter said. “But I can assure you from being on the board six years we’ve definitely lost and squandered opportunities for far more a quarter-million dollars in my opinion.”

Hunter said the charter still has the opportunity to bid on the property.

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