The Norlina Town Board has rejected a $15,000 bid for purchase of the former town library on Hyco Street. The decision came during the board’s Nov. 2 meeting as board members reconsidered a previous decision to declare the building as surplus property.
For about two years, the question of what to do with the library building has been on the minds of past and current board members. Earlier this year, board members could not reach consensus on whether to complete renovations for the building to house the police department, or to sell it. The board voted to declare the former library as surplus property in August.
The Norlina Police Department has been housed in the town hall building on Hyco Street since December 2018, utilizing a downstairs office and the second floor. Town hall employees occupy most of the first floor.
Norlina Director of Operations Blaine Reese said last week that there is no more available office space at town hall. Currently, the police chief, town clerk/finance officer and Reese utilize offices there. However, that leaves Mark Perkinson, crew leader/operator in responsible charge of public works, without an office. Reese said that there is no other space that can be converted into offices. Space at the front of the building is used for town board meetings.
Reese added that while the police department is making do with its space at town hall, there is not enough to conduct a major investigation. He added that interactions with the public must be conducted in the office on the main floor because the second floor is not handicapped accessible.
That brings the former library building back into consideration. Town hall and the police department previously shared a building on Norlina’s Main Street. After town hall moved to its current location on Hyco Street in 2017, the town planned to renovate the former Norlina library building for the police department.
The police department was scheduled to move into the former library in April 2018, and a sale of the Main Street building to Ashley W. and Stuart H. White for $25,000 was completed.
The town’s public works department partly renovated the former library. However, Warren County Code Enforcement halted construction and condemned the building in April 2018 after an inspection revealed a lack of permits for much of the work.
Previous town reports indicated that Norlina spent more than $26,800 in renovations to the former library during the 2017-18 fiscal year, including $15,000 for construction. Also included in the total were $8,800 for heating, air conditioning and ventilation, and $3,000 for flooring, both handled by outside companies.
After the building was condemned, the town sought recommendations from an outside engineer to resolve problems at the building, which included handicapped accessibility, and sought bids to complete renovations.
Between the time the former library was condemned and the police department moved into town hall, the Whites allowed the police department to remain in the Main Street building at a monthly rental fee of $500.
Discussion earlier this year centered around whether to move the police department as originally planned or to keep the department at town hall. Reese said that the first steps in finishing the work on the former library building would involve hiring an electrical engineer and an architect.
Reese said last week that the board considered the $15,000 bid for the library building to be too low considering the amount of renovation work that has been completed and wanted to reconsider whether the police department should be housed at the former library as originally planned.
Reese said that he is meeting with an engineer and Warren County Code Enforcement to ensure that proper steps will be taken if the board decides to move forward with the renovation process.
“We are trying to do better this time,” he said.
The board must now address the question of how it can reverse its decision to declare the library as surplus property. Members requested town attorney Robby May to research the matter.
Reese explained that while board members await the results of May’s research, they wanted to place the building on hold for potential town use. To accomplish this, the board approved a motion that no bids under $1 million for the former library would be considered.