Property owners catch a break with middle school deal

By Jesse Campbell -

While school officials might have the caught the ire of parents last week with the confirmation that the future home of the county’s sole middle school will also be in Jefferson, property owners can take comfort in a lesser known fact.

The new school will be paid for with sales tax revenues designated for school construction and not property taxes.

Since the county’s three high schools consolidated under one roof in 1998, many parents in the northwest end of the county felt slighted the new school was not situated in the county’s geographical center although Ashe High was built closest to the area’s two largest towns and population centers.

Controversy again erupted earlier this year when the Ashe County School System indicated it was looking at the Larry Dollar property near the old Gates Building and AEV’s second Jefferson branch. Many of those same voices that dissented in the late 1990s became audible once again with the cry, ‘Why not look in Warrensville or Creston?’

School officials had a succinct response to this inquiry: Where is suitable flat land in the area that is water and sewer ready?

During the Jan. 3 Ashe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Superintendent Phyllis Yates and Lee Beckworth informed the board they had examined at least 12 different sites to construct the middle school and found this property to be the most suitable.

But what about traffic? Concerned Jefferson residents became very outspoken in late September about fears of an influx in traffic disrupting the tranquility of their sleepy town. A steady stream of factory workers in and out of the area combined with droves of big yellow school buses did nothing to mitigate their qualms with traffic congestion.

Beckworth told the board that access to the school will be from N.C. 88 onto Northwest Drive and then into AEV lane.

Previously, school officials looked into the possibility of simply renovating or building over the current middle school, or the former Northwest Ashe High property. In the end, this was not feasible either, school officials said.

Beckworth addressed these concerns during the September Jefferson Aldermen meeting.

“We started this process 10 years ago,” said Beckworth on looking for a suitable site. “The need has been there because Northwest Ashe High School (the current middle school site) was built in 1967. It’s outdated in many ways. It’s not up to code. It’s been grandfathered in a lot of areas where we would not be able to get away with today, as far as requirements from the state. I suspect our school is one of the only ones that provides 700 students with a spring.”

Earlier this month, commissioners approved the purchase of the 40-acre site on the Dollar property at $40,000 per acre with escrow payment of $45,000. Grading is scheduled to begin spring 2019.

By Jesse Campbell

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