The former Westfield Elementary School had been sitting on the county surplus property list while the county was waiting for the right offer from a suitable new owner.
On Monday evening, the Surry County Board of County Commissioners agreed unanimously to sell the former school site for $150,000 to Fresh Start Ministry, which is leasing a space for worship in Pilot Mountain.
At the end of January, the county received the offer for the buildings and land at 6631 Westfield Rd. The board gave its approval then to begin the upset bidding process. Fresh Start Ministry’s bid for the school and its land, not including the recycling center nor the remaining personal effects on the school grounds, was held for ten days to allow any other party to offer a higher bid.
There were no additional bids and the board agreed to accept the offer to sell the school to the church. County Manager Chris Knopf told the board in presenting this bid that the tax value for the site is $229,320 which includes the recycling center.
Danny Golding attends Fresh Start Ministry and is a former student of Westfield Elementary School. He said Wednesday that the purchase of the site was something of a homecoming for him, “We’d been looking for something like this.”
He said he saw the for-sale sign at the school and mentioned it to Pastor Ricky Sisk who told him to investigate it. When the paperwork goes through, Golding said the idea is to move the whole church to its permanent home. “Hopefully it’s our last move.”
The buildings are in decent shape, he said, but of course some remodeling will be needed. Post renovation he thinks the gym will be the worship hall, but they may need to use the cafeteria space in the interim. Getting the sports fields operational again is another goal for the church.
Golding said those in the congregation who know of the purchase are excited and the rest are in for a nice surprise on Sunday. There is no timetable on when the sale will be complete, or renovations will commence.
County Attorney Ed Woltz presented an unusual wrinkle in the proceedings when he told the board that during a title exam of the Westfield School property, they found other deeds attached to the land.
“We learned that a 3.8 acre portion was deeded in 1929, one-third to the Stokes Board of Education and the rest to the Surry Board of Education for what appears to be a ball field,” he said.
“We spoke to the Stokes school board attorney Fred Johnson, and he couldn’t figure out why that happened,” Woltz added.
The solution has already been identified and executed he said. “Stokes Board of Education agreed to quick claim their interest in the property. If the sale (of Westfield to the church) is approved, we would need to engage a surveyor to see what is going to the church, divide off the county recycling center…. And I understand (Planning Director) Marty Needham has a surveyor who can do this efficiently.”
There were only a handful of offers on the school site including a bid in early 2022 that was also for $150,000 that the board accepted and moved into the upset bidding period. One meeting after accepting the bid, the board was told that offer had been pulled by the bidding party due to anticipated costs of dealing with remediation at the school. That bidding party was not identified to the public.
In June the board turned down an offer from John and Beverly Shelton of $102,000 for the property. The board thanked them for the offer but Commissioner Larry Johnson and then Vice Chair Harris expressed they felt the site could fetch a greater offer. In July, Woltz brought the same offer to the board with an explanation from the bidder that the buildings on the land had depreciated in value and theirs’ was a fair offer. The board took no action on that request at that time.
Commissioner Van Tucker has the Westfield site in his district hence Chairman Harris asked for his input. “It’s my opinion after putting the property up for surplus and after going through the upset bidding process… I think we should accept this offer.”
The board was never under an obligation to accept that bid after the upset period was over as Woltz has educated during past discussions on the sale of county owned land. It was their prerogative to walk away at any point even after the upset period if the board felt they could get a better return from the sale.
Tucker said he wishes the group all the best in the endeavors and the board expressed satisfaction that the property would still be of use. Harris said he hopes the church is successful in their mission, “I hope they bring a lot of people to the Lord.”
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