Polk County to buy former Carolina Classical school building

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

Polk County senior citizens will soon have a new place to congregate.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved the purchase of the former Carolina Classical School on Skyuka Road in Columbus. The county&39;s plan is to move the Meeting Place to the new building from its current location in the Jervey Palmer building in Tryon.

The county agreed to purchase the former school on 27.71 acres for $1.2 million with costs for renovating to add an industrial kitchen estimated at $500,000.

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The vote received cheers Monday from the many seniors and supporters of the move who were attending the meeting.

The Polk County Council on Aging also announced that it will donate $75,000 to the purchase.

Some seniors spoke to commissioners and said that some seniors&squo; only social life is the Meeting Place. Commissioners have been discussing for some time the need to move offices out of the aging Jervey Palmer building, formerly the first St. Luke&squo;s Hospital. Commissioners recently decided to spend about $50,000 to heat some areas of the building.

Other departments in the Jervey Palmer Building include the department of social services (DSS), mental health, juvenile services and veteran&squo;s services.

Commissioners said Monday that they are currently working on obtaining a piece of property to move DSS and other offices out of the Jervey Palmer building, but could not yet disclose that location.

George Moore told commissioners the Jervey Palmer building wasn&squo;t new when he first went in it in 1938.

Sylvia Moore said the county departments &dquo;can&squo;t live in that rat-infested place anymore.&dquo;

Eleanor Rogers said she served with the division of aging in Raleigh for many years and found that the best way to serve the elderly was to have an adequate senior center. She said a senior center is a way to make friends and it makes seniors happy and she reminded commissioners that there are more older residents coming along who vote.

Laura Lynch, council on aging chair and director of the area agency on aging of the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission, said the Meeting Place is in the process of getting certified, which would mean more state funding. The current facility has caused problems in the past in getting more state funding. Lynch said she feels confident with a new building and Meeting Place Director Pam Doty&squo;s programs that Polk&squo;s center could become certified as a center of excellence, which would mean $21,000 annually from state funding. The Meeting Place currently receives $7,000 annually, which falls under the undesignated category.

Doty also spoke in favor of the building purchase and said the Meeting Place currently serves approximately 2,000 meals per month, including both home delivery and onsite meals, and she said meals are only a small part of the center&squo;s programs.

Another issue discussed on Monday was the need for an adult daycare center in Polk County. A couple of commissioners mentioned the need and Lynch said that she knows of three programs in the region that work without county funding. Lynch also said one nearby program has expressed interest in opening an adult daycare in Polk County if the county could provide a building.

Although commissioner Harry Denton did vote for the purchase, he said he wasn&squo;t in favor of buying the former Carolina Classical School. He said he thinks the best option is to build a new building to house all the departments currently in the Jervey Palmer building.

The county also approved a project budget ordinance for the purchase, resolutions in order to obtain approval from the N.C. Local Government Commission to borrow money for the purchase and an architect proposal to install an instututional kitchen in the facility.