JEFFERSON-With the pending destruction of the former Fleetwood School property that sits inconspicuously below U.S. 221, at least one local resident has challenged the county’s stance on allowing the community mainstay to fall by the wayside.
On Monday, Lee McMillan, of Shatley Springs Road in Crumpler, told the county’s board of commissioners that they should exhaust all options in protecting the local treasure instead of allowing the process of eminent domain from reducing the building to a pile of rubble, which has become the fate of other familiar icons due to the highway’s widening.
Both Fleetwood School and the Fleetwood Fire Department, which are located with a rock’s throw of one another, sit at a unique juxtaposition. If the Department of Transportation’s plans hold true, both of those facilities must be destroyed to make room for the expanded highway. One of those facilities – the Fleetwood Fire Department – will benefit from the others destruction. Fire officials hope to relocate to the Fleetwood School site once it’s demolished so they can continue to provide fire protection service to the area.
But according to McMillan, this doesn’t have to be the case. Originally, he said the fire department was most interested in the John Phillips property. The deal fell through at the last second as negotiations stalled, he said.
“When I went to an auction at the Fleetwood School, it was the first time I discovered they had plans to tear it down,” said McMillan. “I was really confused because it is such a nice building. As time went on, I learned so much more about it. The fire department was given $800,000 for their property. The state gave them $400,000 for the John Phillips property. They negotiated to purchase the property. They offered him $500,000. When it came time for the settlement, he backed out and asked for another $50,000. So, the fire department arranged for a contractor to tear down the Fleetwood School and put dirt on top of it and the put the fire department there. The question is: who has the right to make such a decision?”
McMillan continued by saying the fire department “should’ve come to the county and asked for help.
“All the county had to do then was take the land (Phillips’ property) that already been overpaid for through eminent domain. All you have to do is go to court and if that’s not good enough, a judge might give them another 10 percent,” said McMillan. “I think if this goes to eminent domain, Phillips would receive a lot less. I understand this morning that the fire department is satisfied to go the way they are going now. If the land they originally wanted was to go through eminent domain, that would solve the problem for everyone.”
McMillan then urged commissioners to do due diligence in examining other options.
“I’m asking you to stop any further efforts to tear down the building,” he pleaded. “Take the (Phillips’) land through the right of eminent domain and give to it to the fire department, which was what they wanted originally.”
DOT officials confirmed last week that the Fleetwood School building will be demolished and the fire department plans to relocate to the site.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.
Lee McMillan, of Crumpler, said commissioners have some work to do if they want to save the Fleetwood School