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Board sets hearing on sale of old Woodstock High to agency

Contract says county will sell school, acreage for $1 if property used for community programs

By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors moved a step closer Tuesday to selling the old Woodstock High School to the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging.

On Tuesday, the board scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 25 on the disposal of public property to the agency. The contract says the county will sell the school and about 2.8 acres to the agency for $1 "in consideration of [SAAA] utilizing the property for community health and wellness programs," an adult day-care center respite site and similar programs.

At Thursday's meeting of the property and public works committee, Helen Cockrell, the agency's executive director, said it is close to getting together financing for renovations to the property.

"We are committed to renovating the building and keeping the historic structure and character of the building," she said, and an architectural historian is consulting on the project. The agency hopes to break ground in March and be in the facility by late winter or early spring of 2011, she said.

The school will house the agency's main offices and an adult day-care center and respite center, she said, and the agency hopes to put in a wellness clinic and to do a telemedicine pilot project. There will be some space in the building that other nonprofit organizations can lease, she said.

"I think it's a great project," District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson said, especially since it involves putting a historic building in better repair.

But a provision requiring the property -- and any improvements to it -- to revert to the county if it's no longer used for the purposes outlined in the contract should be added to the agreement, he said.

Cockrell said the agency is putting $1.5 million into the property, and is "taking a risk, too." District 1 Supervisor Dick Neese said he "wouldn't purchase anything with that on the contract."

County Administrator Vince Poling said the county has had a similar condition on at least two deeds, and the purchasers in those cases received the buildings after a certain period of time had passed.

"I wouldn't have a problem with it for a while, but I think it eventually has to become your building," District 6 Supervisor Conrad Helsley told Cockrell.

Ferguson said the county is ready to give an asset away for $1, and his point is that "all good intentions can change." He said he just wanted to protect the county's assets for its residents.

Helsley said the county could require the agency to use the building for the purposes outlined in the contract for at least 10 years. Assistant County Administrator Mary T. Price said the county had required that length of time before.

Price said she thought 10 years was "reasonable," and Cockrell agreed. The committee decided to add the provision to the contract.

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