Tuesday, October 26, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

County considers buying former bank building on S. Main St. for elections office

Alamance County’s board of commissioners has given the county’s administrators the all-clear to negotiate the purchase of a building in Graham that could serve as a central location for the local elections office.

The commissioners formally gave the county manager the authority to pursue the purchase of this building, which Iberia Bank currently owns at 1128 South Main Street, during the course of a 90-minute closed session on Monday. The commissioners went behind closed doors at the start of an otherwise pubic meeting that morning in order to preserve the attorney client privilege, discuss unspecified personnel matters, and consider the potential acquisition of the aforementioned property.

Under state law, elected bodies are obligated to identify the owner, location, and purpose of any real property they are thinking about acquiring before they go into closed session to discuss the transaction. In this case, John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, had been prepared to enter closed session without meeting these legal obligations.

Paisley even initially gaveled down a reporter with The Alamance News who admonished him and his colleagues to comply about the legally-mandated disclosures before the closed session began. It was only thanks to the timely intervention of Alamance County’s attorney Clyde Albright that Paisley made the required disclosures.

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Following Monday’s closed-door discussion, Paisley announced that he and his fellow commissioners had instructed county manager Bryan Hagood to negotiate the purchase of the property under discussion. Alamance County’s manager Bryan Hagood later told The Alamance News that the facility in question contains about 10,000 square feet of space – enough, he insisted, to centralize all of the functions that the county’s elections office currently has scattered across eight different locations.

County property records indicate that the property at 1128 South Main Street consists of a building with some 10,214 square feet of floor space and just under 2 acres in grounds. The building, which is presently vacant, once housed Alamance National Bank – which had purchased the property in 1998 for $180,000. The building and its grounds currently have a county-assessed tax value of $989,474.

More recently, the building has served as a branch office for Capital Bank and subsequently First Horizon Bank before the latter decided earlier this year to consolidate its two Graham offices at the bank’s other location, at 227 South Main Street.  The 1128 South Main Street sites was closed on July 15.

According to an online posting with Coldwell Banker Realty, the building is being offered for sale for $995,000.

The board’s instructions to the county manager regarding this property couldn’t have come any sooner for the county’s elections director Kathy Holland, who was on hand for the public portion of Monday’s meeting to discuss the elections office’s facilities needs with the commissioners.

During that morning’s proceedings, Holland gave the commissioners a “pictorial” tour of her agency’s existing accommodations, which include a hodgepodge of storage facilities in addition to the elections office’s headquarters at the corner of Maple and Pine streets in Graham.

The Board of Elections is currently headquartered at 115 South Maple Street in Graham.

The county’s administrators ultimately intend to raze this building as part of a long-term plan to redevelop the block of downtown Graham that’s home to both Alamance County’s jail and the Judge J.B. Allen Jr. Court House. In the meantime, the elections office has long since outgrown this facility, which has served as its HQ since it vacated a now-demolished structure on the other side of the block.

Holland noted that, for well over a year, many of her agency’s functions have been situated at a former Medicap pharmacy building at 378 Harden Street in Burlington. At one point, the commissioners had even considered buying this site in order to centralize the county’s elections-related operations – only to have the decommissioned drug store sold out from under them in August.

Holland, for her part, made no secret of how much of an asset this building has been to her office since the county first began to lease the facility for the storage of elections equipment. Holland said that the former pharmacy proved especially useful last year as a clearinghouse for processing the thousands of mail-in ballots that area voters had sought from her office.

“It was such a blessing in September of last year,” she told the commissioners on Monday. “We immediately stacked it with workers…and there was no feasible way we could’ve had that in our current office [at the corner of Maple and Pine streets].”

The county’s elections director also observed that former Medicap building has recently become a venue for meetings of the local board of elections, a bipartisan body that oversees the electoral process within Alamance County.

Since the commissioners learned about the former pharmacy’s sale, the county has managed to get its lease on this property extended until November 30. At that point, however, the county will have to clear out of the building to make room for its new proprietor. This deadline has, moreover, accelerated the county’s timetable to find some digs for Holland and the rest of the county’s elections staff and equipment.

Holland didn’t say anything about the county’s potential acquisition along South Main Street during her presentation to the commissioners on Monday. She nevertheless acknowledged the benefits that a single, centralized location would ultimately confer on her and her colleagues.
“It would be very productive and secure,” she conceded, “to have things in one location.”

Vote Jim Butler, Harold Owen, Ronnie Wall

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