County Manager Pat Mitchell offered the Jefferson Aldermen a deal last Monday night on the old jail property.
At the meeting, Mitchell proposed selling the old jail site to the town for $13,300, which is half of the $32,600 paid by the county to raze the building and clear the site, if the Jefferson Aldermen agreed to place no restrictions on a piece of property the county purchased several months ago for future expansion.
Mitchell said during the proposition to the alderman, two of the commissioners want to give the property to the town, but three commissioners want to recapture some of the cleanup money.
Jefferson Aldermen agreed to the deal, but said if the county wants assurances on no restrictions, the commissioners would need to request to have the property below the courthouse annexed by the town.
“The property is not in town limits so we can’t make promises on land that’s not in town,” said Alderman Mark Johnston. “If you want us to control it, you’ve got to ask us to annex it. Whoever owns it asks us to annex it. We could promise you we wouldn’t do anything, but it’s not our control.”
Mayor Dana Tugman said, “I think we’re borrowing trouble by trying to annex it.”
Board members mentioned an extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) as something that could be done on property adjoining town limits, but no one commented on the possibility of that happening.
“We don’t want to see the land get caught up in that so we can use it for county services without restrictions, and get water and sewer,” Mitchell said. “We have no intention of doing anything else with the land or selling it, but if we did, we wouldn’t ask for the same agreement on the land.”
The county may want to use the property – several acres below and behind the existing campus - for future expansion of county facilities such as social services, the health department or relocation of the farm museum (currently at Ashe County Park), Mitchell said.
The county is surveying everything it owns around the courthouse, she said, not necessarily for plans, but to have that information at hand.
Alderman Charles Caudill said his first concern is that the county not put something detestable to the town on that property.
Mitchell said the county didn’t have an intention for the property when it was purchased, but the thought was to have it for expansion of county services.
Mitchell also asked about water/sewer services. Johnston said the town has only two rates – in town and out of town. Making an exception for the county, considering that Jefferson is the county seat, is something to ask the town’s attorney, the board noted.
In the absence of annexation, a water line would be the county’s responsibility, said Mayor Tugman. There would also be the possibility of splitting the cost between in town and out of town water/sewer rates.
“It’s open to discussion, because I want to get this deal done,” Mitchell said.
“Seems to me, the best thing to do is for your board to ask us to annex that land,” said Caudill. “That would take care of everything.”
“Let’s settle something before the board changes,” said Johnston of the commissioners.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Mitchell said. She said she would report to the commissioners at their next meeting (March 5) and may ask to be on Jefferson’s next board agenda (March 26).
In other business, the board heard a request from GDS (Garbage Disposal Services) to consider their bid for the town. Jeff McCree was accompanied by Don Phelps and Terry Treadway, and they offered customer surveys for the board’s consideration.
McCree told the board that West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price had given the service a “9” on a scale of “10” and that Boone had just renewed service for the next three years. Both Boone and Avery County gave GDS a “10” on their customer service scale, McCree said.
“I think we can provide this service for the Town of Jefferson, also,” McCree said.
Mayor Tugman said the town has had no quality complaints against GDS, and the board will take the bid into consideration. A contract for the town will be awarded by July 1.