Gibsonville’s board of aldermen gave the owners of the town’s former elementary school a fourth extension on February 1 and opted to have the duo heading up the project present the town with a $5 million protection bond.
The idea for the bond, which would guard the town from a lawsuit if anyone were hurt or killed on the privately-owned property, came from interim town attorney Keith Whited almost an hour into the board’s discussion about what to do with the dilapidated building.
During the roughly hour-long deliberation, the board weighed its options as it received input from the town’s contracted code enforcement officer, Dennis Pinnix; Whited; the property’s owners, Lily Yang Shahrak and Alireza “Alex” Shahrak; and one of the duo’s previously-considered builders, Kevin Mangum, whom Pinnix invited to the meeting.
Aside from giving the owners more time to secure the site — the board has now given four extensions since last September — the board was also told, by Pinnix, that they could consider taking the Shahraks to court to get an injunction for the town to stabilize the building, then send the bill to the couple and foreclose on the site if not paid in a month’s time. Foreclosing, he said, would potentially allow the town to sell the property to another interested buyer, who has not been named.
Demolition of the building has also long been on the table as the board grows increasingly weary of what the town considers a security hazard posed by the site. Still, Pinnix told the aldermen that taking over the property and demolishing the building, estimated to cost at least $200,000 — not including potential asbestos removal — would put the town out hundreds of thousands of dollars and leave it with only a lot.
“If we demolish that building and spend $200,000 to $240,000, plus asbestos abatement, the only thing you’ve got left is that lot,” Pinnix explained. “How much money are you going to recoup out of that lot? Not much.”
Alderman Ken Pleasants asserted that demolishing the building shouldn’t require taxpayer funds.
“Guilford County should’ve done something with it when they built that new school [next door],” he added. “There’s just no way that we should be spending any taxpayer money on this process.”
For his part, Whited warned the board that foreclosing on the property could be a years-long, tedious process in and of itself, and the Shahraks would still ultimately have the opportunity to buy out the property. Even injunctions like the town has considered would take months to receive, he said, and then be only temporary.
“You’re not going to be in the process where someone hands a judge a piece of paper and the town is protected,” the attorney said. “I wouldn’t go in it with the idea that you’re going to stick a piece of paper under a judge’s nose and get a signature that protects you. That’s not going to happen in my view.”
Even as the board appeared to warm to the idea of a protection bond, Mangum, a builder brought in by Pinnix to advise the board on the site, explained that a hefty $5 million bond would require that the Shahraks have the finances to back it up.
“A bond would work; I completely agree with that,” he said. “I think the financials required to carry a $5 million bond will be tight, and so whoever produces that bond better be financially strong.”
Both Pinnix and Whited told the aldermen that while they weren’t sure the Shahraks could return with a bond by the board’s March 1 meeting, the town could request that the owners provide proof they have applied for one. Adding to the suggestion, Pinnix asked that the board also require the Shahraks to have the school’s walls entirely stabilized “the way the engineer says it needs to be done” by March 1.
See related stories in this (Feb. 18) edition:
The contractor that developers claim to have hired tells town he’s ‘not for hire’: https://alamancenews.com/school-owners-present-as-their-contractor-someone-who-says-he-is-not-for-hire/
Developers say they will stabilize school building walls: https://alamancenews.com/gibsonville-school-owners-promise-to-have-walls-secured-by-march-1/
Also in Gibsonville this week (Feb. 18 edition):
Alamance News publisher objects, but town aldermen meet behind closed doors with applicant to be town attorney: https://alamancenews.com/over-publishers-objection-that-deliberations-should-be-public-aldermen-go-behind-closed-doors-to-interview-potential-new-attorney-for-10-minutes/