Surry County board opts for further study on Mount Airy request for Graham Field

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — County commissioners opted not to act on a request from the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to transfer ownership of a baseball field and surrounding land to the city.

On Monday evening the Surry County Board of Commissioners considered a resolution from the city board asking the county to convey Graham Field, a seven-acre parcel on which a baseball field sits located across the street from the L.H. Jones Family Resource Center, to the city.

“I don’t see how they are being damaged if we own it,” said Commissioner Van Tucker.

According to the resolution adopted by the city last month, and a timeline put together by county staff, the city has been leasing the property from the county since 2007. The lease will expire on May 31.

County Commissioner Larry Johnson advocated for the transfer noting the city planned to use the property for the same purpose as it is being used at present and the county receives no income from the property.

“I don’t quite understand,” said Johnson. “If it’s not going to hurt anything, why not transfer it.”

The board didn’t rule out the eventual transfer of the property to the city. However, other commissioners sought more information regarding the transfer.

Tucker asked if there was any precedent which had been set by prior boards regarding the transfer of county properties to the municipalities in which they lie.

“The only instance since I have been county manager would be the sale of a parking lot in Dobson to the town,” answered County Manager Chris Knopf.

Knopf noted shortly after he became county manager in 2012 the county sold the property on which Dobson Square Park sits to the town of Dobson. At a price of $125,000, the property was conveyed for half its value.

Knopf also said the county recently transferred a small parcel of property, perhaps less than one-tenth of an acre, to the city. It was needed for Mount Airy’s greenway connector project.

Board Chairman Eddie Harris noted any decision the board makes regarding Graham Field could set a precedent should any of the four municipalities which lie in Surry County want to take possession of a county property.

“I understand that,” replied Johnson, who as part of a liaison committee to Mount Airy will take a lead role in further investigating the matter.

Commissioner Larry Phillips and Johnson serve as the board’s two Mount Airy District members. Thus, they comprise the liaison committee.

Phillips said his concern lies in the manner in which the request ended up before commissioners.

“I’ve had no time to get questions answered,” said Phillips. “If we have these committees, we ought to use them.”

No motion was made on the matter. However, the board instructed Knopf to set up a meeting between city staff and Phillips and Johnson.

The two will report back to the board with recommendations after that meeting.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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