Sale of Southern Pines Primary still up in the air

After more than two years, a divided Moore County Board of Education will have one more week to try to decide what to do with the former Southern Pines Primary School’s property after discussing the matter at their work session Monday afternoon.

Options include selling the 17-acre site to a local nonprofit group for the appraised value, beginning a process to find the highest bidder or holding on to the land.

Since the end of 2019, the land and associated buildings located on Carlisle Street in the area known as West Southern Pines, school officials have been considering what to do with the property once a new school was built. In the last year, a group known as the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust has been in negotiations with Moore County Schools to buy the land and buildings that once were the Southern Pines Primary School.

Plans are to petition the Town of Southern Pines for a zoning change, construct affordable housing, provide educational and entrepreneurial opportunities and keep a portion of the land as open space, according to the land trust’s website. Because of their intention to continue an educational component, the Board of Education is allowed to sell the property to the land trust at fair market value.

Last month, the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust submitted an offer to buy the property for the appraised value of $685,000. Days later, an unsolicited offer to purchase the property was received from Ron Jackson, Drain The Swamp LLC for $900,000. 

The Board of Education cannot accept Jackson’s offer since plans do not include an educational use. Instead, a process called Upset Bid would have to be followed. In that case, advertised offers would have to be sought, and the property be sold to the highest bidder.

Still, another option will be on the table when the board meets next week in a regular session. Not selling the land at all, but rather holding it for future school needs was discussed.

The land and buildings that once were South Pines Primary School have been vacant since the beginning of the year. That is when a new school was opened. The new school combined the middle and primary schools. The site of Southern Pines Elementary School was recently sold to Moore Montessori, a school that offers private education.   

$13.5 Million for School Gyms 

Unanimous agreement seems to come on a plan to spend $13.5 million to improve six school gyms. According to school officials, doors and windows would be replaced, ceilings and roofs replaced and HVAC systems modernized. The school gyms are at Cameron, Carthage, Highfalls, Sandhills Farmlife, Vass-Lakeview and Westmoore elementary schools.

Money would come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a federal fund passed by Congress as part of COVID-19 relief. Local capital funds and requiring approval from county commissioners would also be required.

If approved at the next meeting, work could begin next year. The gyms would be required to close while the work is being done.

Long Meetings

Board members are considering making changes to how meetings are conducted. Under consideration is an earlier start time, a required time that the meeting would end and limiting the time the public has to address the board.

Meetings in the past have gone over five hours, testing the stamina of the public, staff and board members.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 9 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Union Pines High School. The larger venue is planned to accommodate the expected large numbers of people in attendance.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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