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Gibsonville school owners promise to have walls secured by March 1


During the same meeting in which Gibsonville’s board issued another one-month extension to the Shahraks, the owners told the aldermen that they had found a project manager for the old school site, a requirement that had been handed down by the board in January.

While the Shahraks were supposed to have the manager, identified as Gene Rees of Mount Airy, under contract and present for the board’s February 1 meeting, Alireza “Alex” Shahrak said that Rees had been unable to attend the meeting due to a prior engagement in Mount Airy.

Contention also arose over whether the Shahraks actually had Rees under contract at last week’s meeting, with an email from the prospective manager to the town noting that he and the Shahraks hadn’t partnered. At the end of the meeting, the Shahraks claimed to have an “agreement” with the contractor. [See separate story in this edition.]

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“Everything is in place,” Alireza assured the board, explaining that he and Lily have gained not only Rees, but an engineer, architect, and developer. “That’s it. We are on track. We do not need anybody from anywhere to come and help us, because we already have everything in place.”

Mayor Lenny Williams remained skeptical of the couple, referring to Rees’ email correspondence with town staff in which he didn’t confirm a contract.

“He didn’t say that,” Williams said. “Don’t come here and tell me he said that when we got a message from him.”


Shahraks scrap third plan, move on to fourth
When the Shahraks came before the board on February 1, Lily gave the details for a fourth plan for the property: 43 rent-to-own condos. The newest plan is the fourth in the course of the past year, with the owners scrapping plans for a senior living facility, senior apartments, and affordable housing, respectively.

Still, she implied that the fourth endeavor could be subject to change due to the “very old” nature of the school and the additional challenges that may arise.

Lily went on to present the board with a website for the planned condos,, which describes the 43 planned dwellings as “luxury loft apartments.”


Walls were to be stabilized by February 4
The Shahraks bemoaned obstacles that had pushed back the stabilization of the school’s walls, adding to the list of hurdles they have allegedly faced in carrying out the project, some of which include the effects of the Chinese-American trade war on availability of fencing material and the onset of the pandemic.

Hindering the wall repairs during the first week of February was the recent onset of cold and wet weather, Lily told the board, making it seemingly impossible to drill bracing material into the school’s bricks.

Still, she said, a contractor was set to complete the bracing by February 4, which would then clear the way for the building’s roof to be replaced — after the removal of asbestos. By the end of the meeting, however, she assured mayor pro tem Mark Shepherd that the walls would be fully stabilized by March 1, the town’s newly-mandated deadline.

The mention of asbestos contradicts a recent report by Preservation North Carolina, the organization that sold the school to the Shahraks in December 2017, which stated that asbestos had only been found the school nurse’s office.


Board criticizes recurring gap in fencing
The board also referred to the recurring gap in fencing left by contractors when both on and away from the construction site, requesting that the Shahraks install a gate at the rear of the building to prevent trespassers from entering.

“If you’ve got a construction site that you’re going to have heavy equipment, and/or vehicles, and/or personnel in, you don’t take the fence down and then put it back when they leave,” alderman Ken Pleasants told the Shahraks. “You make a gate, a door, so they can open it when they get there and close it when they leave.”

Alderman Yvonne Maizland, who has regularly visited the site, also critiqued the lack of security, telling the Shahraks, “I could go over there right now and walk right in.”
Alireza, conceding that the walls hadn’t yet been secured, said that he and Lily “finished everything [else] as for security concerns.”

This photo, taken earlier this year, shows the gap in fencing on the back side of the school. Even more recently, however, the gate is frequently open throughout the day and is sometimes left open at the end of the day, according to one member of the board of aldermen.

Responding to the critique of the fence, he told the board, “Anybody in this room here have seen the fence or the windows after five o’clock? If you have seen it, then you know for sure. Hundred percent secure, hundred percent boarded, hundred percent this fence complete.

“If you don’t believe me, walk out whenever you finish here [and] go take a look. There’s no question about it. That’s it.”

See related stories in this (Feb. 18) edition:

Aldermen grant another (4th) FINAL deadline for progress on school’s renovation:

The contractor that developers claim to have hired tells town he’s ‘not for hire’:


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:

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