At a 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 work session of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Town of Summerfield’s plan for a new town hall ran into a surprising and solid brick wall when town officials came to the county to ask to use $2.2 million of American Rescue Plan Act money to buy a historic school and convert it into a town hall.
Before the meeting, the deal was expected to be quick and simple; however, during a closed session of the Board of Commissioners, the plan fell to pieces.
Now, Summerfield leaders must revamp the proposal and come back to the county commissioners if they want to use the money to buy the school. The county had already granted the $2.2 million to the town – as part of a $5.5 million handout of federal Rescue Plan money – but, previously, Summerfield officials had said the entire $5.5 million would be used for water system projects. There was no question that that was a use of the money allowed by state and federal guidelines.
Before the Board of Commissioners went into closed session to discuss the real estate deal, everyone was all smiles and Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston told reporters that the closed session would be very quick.
However, the session dragged on for nearly an hour, and, when the board came back into public session, the commissioners announced that a legal concern had arisen as to whether or not the money could be used for a building purchase for a new town hall.
Summerfield officials have wanted a new town hall for a long time and this proposal was to purchase the Laughlin School – which is perhaps the oldest black school in North Carolina.
Since the school property consists of 11 acres, Summerfield town officials may be able to expand the project to include a park and offer offerings – which presumably would allow the $2.2 million from the federal Rescue Plan Act to be used.
Guilford County commissioners told Summerfield’s mayor and city manager to bring back a detailed plan in December after it is vetted by the county attorney.