DOBSON — Surry County will shell out $1.5 million for a property adjacent to the Surry County Government Center.
Following a closed session at Monday evening’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, County Attorney Ed Woltz told the members of the board the company which owns the former Just Save location at 911 E. Atkins St. in Dobson had accepted the county’s $1.5 million offer for the property.
Commissioners have cited property as the purpose behind closed session meetings at multiple meetings of the county board throughout the course of the past few months.
However, the happenings of those closed sessions were not apparent until Woltz broke the news of the deal in open session on Monday.
Board Chairman Eddie Harris noted the county had done its due diligence prior to making the offer. It had two appraisals and a structural assessment completed. There are numerous scenarios for its future use, but no plans were set in stone as of Monday.
“The need is tremendous,” said Harris after noting the property’s proximity to the center of the county’s operations. “I believe this will save tax dollars.”
The county began looking into purchasing the property after Just Save announced it was shutting its doors in August. The grocer was renting the property from locally owned Dobson Plaza, LLC.
County officials have cited a need for more space to run the county’s operations, and storage space was also an issue on the minds of commissioners.
Commissioner Buck Golding pointed out the concrete floor will make for good use for storing documents which must be stored forever. At other properties owned by the county, the county is limited by how much weight a floor is rated to hold.
After the meeting Harris noted he didn’t know exactly what county offices might eventually be relocated to the new space. However, there is a need for expansion.
“We will fill it,” said Commissioner Larry Johnson.
Dobson officials made the county’s interest in purchasing the property known in February, and town officials were opposed to the county purchasing the property.
Instead, they hoped the property would stay in the hands of private industry to create jobs. The town also does not receive property taxes from government-owned properties, and the town is littered with those properties.
“Acquiring this property will add another $2.2 million in assessed property to the tax exempt list, resulting in the town losing an additional $8,500 per year in tax revenues,” wrote Town Manager Josh Smith in a letter to County Manager Chris Knopf, which was dated Nov. 30, 2015.
Smith went on to note the loss of the property from Dobson’s tax rolls would be an $8,500 loss in property tax revenue for the town, which is equal to about a penny on the town’s tax rate.
Knopf said the county board acted in the county’s best interests, as the cost to build a new building to address the county’s capital needs would have cost the county taxpayer millions more than the purchase cost of the former grocery store and any renovations needed to convert it for the county’s use.
The county manager said the $1.5 million will come from the county’s general fund. However, it will be re-payed when the county issues $10 million in debt aimed at addressing its capital needs, which is part of a plan to borrow $85 million over the course of the next few years to address the capital needs of the county’s three school systems and county government.
Commissioner Van Tucker said it is seldom that an opportunity to purchase property located in such proximity to the government center presents itself. Though the county board “didn’t go looking for this,” the board wasn’t inclined to pass on the opportunity.
Of the process by which the county negotiated the purchase Tucker said, “Sometimes you have to move out of order to do what is prudent and in the best interests of the Surry County taxpayer.”
Andy may be reached at 415-4698.