The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 6, 2013

County waives Roberson School purchase

Staff reporter

TARBORO — Edgecombe County Board of Commissioner waived its option to buy the defunct Roberson Center for Educational Achievement building during Monday night's regularly scheduled meeting.

The Edgecombe County School Board gave the county an option to buy the 33,000 square-foot building that sits on 15.8 acres of land. It wasn't clear whether a price had been discussed, but the school board had offered to sell it either at a fair market value or a price negotiated between the two parties.

One factor that could delay the sale is a roof in desperate need of repair and carpet that needs to be replaced. In all, repairs are expected to reach apporiximately $1 million.

The news may have been considered bad for the Roberson-Conetoe Inc. of Eastern Edgecombe (RCI). The newly formed non-profit organization had hopes that the county would purchase the building and then lease it to them for $1.

Officials of the organization have sentimental ties to the structure. where they attended elementary school more than 60 years ago. The historic building, built in 1952 for kindergarten through 8th grades, was closed in 2005 and then used as an alternative school.

Roberson was the feeder school for the defunct Conetoe High School. Conetoe has a prominent alumni organization that raises fund to give scholarships to high school and college students. The organizers of RCI are also members of the alumni.

RIC and Conetoe Alumni have hope of reviving the historic facility by turning it into an interactive science museum for children. RCI submitted to the commissioners a detailed plan of the museum that included purchasing exhibits from grants and donations. Another idea included a garden planted by local students.

Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon told Conetoe Alumni members who attended the meeting that they can negotiated purchasing the building from the school board. He also told them that his staff will assist them with pursuing funding.

In another matter, the board approved a plan to look at refinancing $14 million of debt due to the current low interest rate. The move could allow the county to save between $2 million and $2.8 million. A public hearing is scheduled for April 1 on the issue.

The board also announced its annual retreat to be held March 26 at Franklinton Center at Bricks, located at the border of Edgecombe County and Halifax County lines. The retreat, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., is a meeting that allow the board to plan for the upcoming fiscal year that ends June 30.