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Letters to the Editor

Help wanted for Chesterfield school

Dear Editor,

Chesterfield Community, just 2.6 miles from Morganton city limits along NC 18-64 toward Lenoir, is in despair.

As a long- time resident of the Chesterfield Community, I have observed firsthand how much closing the school has impacted us as a whole. Our school was the center of our community and without It, we’ve gone downhill in Chesterfield — a long way downhill. That’s over now and we realize the school isn’t coming back and we also know that the Board of Education will not be utilizing any buildings anywhere in the Chesterfield Community. We’re not faulting them. They did what they had to do with the children’s best interest at heart.

The community and I are reaching out for help from the Burke County Commission since clearly they are really the only part of government that can help us now that Chesterfield Elementary is gone. The Burke County Commission is the only “government” we have left.

I’m Shandy Denton Gossett, the president of Chesterfield Ruritan Club. We’re located at 2126 Pax Hill Road just across from Chesterfield Elementary School. Our organization owns our building with about 3.1 acres, and has worked closely with the school nearly 50 years. The school was a big asset to our club in the fact that it allowed us to assist the community where help was needed.

If we had time to ask our Ruritan Board, I think they might like for the Burke County Commission to take over the Chesterfield Elementary School property from the Burke County Board Of Education, one way or another. It is of the utmost importance to make sure that, if some — or all of it — needs to be sold, it’s done by the County Commission in a way that helps benefit the Chesterfield Community. If part of the Chesterfield Elementary School building can be saved that would be fine, but, if all the property needs to be sold and even torn down, then as much as possible of the money from selling it should come back to the Chesterfield Community. We need to try to make up for losing our school and only the County Commission can help us with this. Not the School Board.

With that being said, we hope that the County Commission will vote not to allow the school board to sell the Chesterfield Elementary School. Instead, we hope the County Commission will take over the property.

By the way, our Ruritan Club may be able to assist by mowing some grass at the property and watching over it for awhile. We would be delighted to have one or more community meetings by the County Commission at our club for everyone to talk about this. They might even get a good story or two out of visiting with us.

Thank you,

Shandy Denton Gossett

President and District Lt. Governor Chesterfield Ruritan Club

Morganton

Help wanted with Rutherford College school

The Town of Rutherford College badly needs direct help from the Burke County Commission that the Commission almost certainly will not be able to give, in my opinion, if they vote for the first item on their Consent Agenda this Tuesday, June 16, 2020 at 6:00 PM.

If the Burke County Commission approves Resolution No. 2020-18 — without significant modification — the Commission will be giving the Burke County Board Of Education (BOE) irrevocable permission to do a “public sale” of all four properties comprising the old Rutherford College Elementary School campus and to apply all of the proceeds from the sale to their own BOE capital educational budget. Presumably, none of these proceeds could or would be spent in the Town of Rutherford College; and, presumably, none of the four properties could or would be “gifted” or leased by the BOE to the Town of Rutherford College if the County Commission approves Resolution No. 2020-18. After all, the Board of Education is obligated to expend all its capital budget on schools and in locations where it has not “abandoned” all of its facilities (if I may use the term, “abandoned,” in a non-pejorative sense).

There is a far better way forward for the Burke County Commission and the Town of Rutherford College, I think, which is allowed and maybe even encouraged under North Carolina State Statutes Section 115C-518 (a)-© and other state statutes.

The Burke County Commission may agree, instead, to “receive” one or more of the four Rutherford College properties from the Board Of Education. The Commission could then, for example, donate or lease one of the properties, RCES Parcel 4, to the Town of Rutherford College. I understand the town desires RCES Parcel 4 for parkland. And, the Commission could direct some or all of the proceeds from its own sale of RCES Parcels 1-3 back to the Town of Rutherford College to mitigate the substantial damage to the town which has been occasioned by the loss of Rutherford College Elementary school.

The statutory language of most direct relevance is this: “The board of education shall offer the property (in this case each of the four RCES parcels) to the board of commissioners at a fair market price or at a price negotiated between the two boards.” So, if both boards are willing to negotiate — hopefully, openly — they should and will be able to reach an agreement within a month or so which conveys the properties to the Burke County Commission in such a way such the Commission can be optimally constructive for the Town of Rutherford College, in my opinion.

Also, hopefully, the Morganton News Herald may be able to make an editorial judgement within a few months as to the best way to move forward with respect to the Rutherford College Elementary School properties as well as other “abandoned” Burke County school properties in the future.

The agenda information may be viewed at www.burkenc.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/491?fileID=910 on Pages 10, 11, 16-19.

Bryant Lindsey, Ed. D.

Morganton

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