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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 13:34

DOT land could go to Haywood schools

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Parking may get easier and safer for Junaluska Elementary School parents if a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City, makes it through committee.

HB 623, introduced by Clampitt on April 6 and co-sponsored by Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, would convey to the Haywood County Board of Education a 3-acre chunk of land currently owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the sum of $1. 

“We had talked back when Joe Sam Queen was our representative, and asked him if he could get it declared surplus,” said Board of Education Chairman Chuck Francis. 

Francis said it didn’t work out at the time, which he guesses was about seven years ago, but the thought still lingered. 

“It’s been an ongoing situation,” Clampitt said, noting that someone from the DOT advised him recently that the land could probably be declared surplus. 

Clampitt drove out to the site before introducing the bill. 

“It’s the right thing to do for the Haywood County Schools,” he said. 

The bill requires HCS to use the land, which lies east of Asheville Road and runs from Francis Farm Road to Sims Circle Road, for “education-related purposes” or it would revert back to state ownership, which would prevent the school board from conveying the property to someone else or otherwise profiting from it. 

Presnell, in her regular newsletter to constituents, said she co-sponsored the bill because the land wasn’t really being used; it usually serves as an infrequent and temporary home for the occasional bulldozer, or semi truck. 

“The land is currently sitting idle and unused by the DOT, I’m sure Haywood County Schools will get more use out of it than the state,” Presnell said in her email. 

Clampitt thinks that the area would make a good place for parking, especially when Junaluska Elementary’s nearby ball fields are in use. 

“I believe it will give better access for parking, making it easier and safer,” he said. “It will be an advantage for those participating in activities.”

Francis largely agreed, saying that it would be relatively inexpensive to grade the grassy area and lay some gravel. 

But Francis cautioned that the parking lot idea was only speculation, as the school board had not met since the introduction of the bill, which Francis said he learned about on Facebook and not from Clampitt. 

“The way I look at it, nothing bad can come of it,” Francis said, adding that in the future, he may try to find some money to pave the lot.

As of press time, HB 623 sat in the Committee on State and Local Government II, but Clampitt thinks it has a good chance of success. 

“I don’t see any potential hurdles,” he said. “There shouldn’t be any real issues — there’s no cost to the state, and no cost to the school board, but for a dollar, and I think they can find that. I’d even come out of pocket on that if I had to.”

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