The Greater Fleetwood Preservation Organization has been given the green light for a lease extension on its use of the Fleetwood Community Center by school officials.
The current lease, originally set for five years, is scheduled to expire on Wednesday, March 10. The organization’s treasurer, Carolyn Moser, said that the preservation organization would like to continue to utilize the building and that it has added renewals to the structure including a new roof and has resurfaced the parking lot since singing the original lease. The organization has also requested a longer lease than the one that was previously given because vendors who use the building would prefer a long term stay.
The center previously served as a community high school and elementary school before the consolidation of the Fleetwood and West Jefferson schools resulted in what is today known as Westwood Elementary School. Since then, the building’s gym and classrooms have been rented out by the GFPO for various functions including wedding receptions, family reunions, birthday parties, and other events. It has also provided community services such as a media center to check out books and other resources.
During Monday’s Ashe County Board of Education meeting, board member Dorothy Witherspoon made the motion to give the organization a similar lease that would run for 10 years – twice as long as the current one.
“I like having the building occupied and people using it,” Witherspoon said.
Another board member, Dr. Lee Beckworth, requested that a segment addressing the planned expansion of Highway 221 to be added to the new lease agreement. School board members expressed their concerns on whether or not the planned highway expansion would affect the community center. According to the current North Carolina Department of Transportation plans, the highway expansion project is scheduled to begin in Deep Gap in 2012 before progressing north and concluding in Jefferson. Ashe County Manager Dan McMillan said that the project would not affect the community center before 2017 and even then it is unclear whether or not the highway and its right away would prevent the center from operating. McMillan explained that it is too early to determine if the center or the adjacent Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department would have to be relocated due to the planned expansion.
Ashe County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves said that he is “working with the school board’s attorney to get the details of that (lease) worked out.” The current lease charges the organization one dollar per year to use the building. The reason for the low nominal fee, Reeves explained, is that the school system does not have to pay the building’s utility fees or the money to perform minor repairs on the center – the GFPO pays those operating costs as outlined in the lease.
“It’s actually a win-win situation,” Reeves said. “It is a large cost to maintain a building of that size so we lease the building to them $1 a year and in return they pay for any minor repairs and utilities. We do not have to pay for the heat or electricity and other incurring yearly costs to keep it up.”