Middle school better senior center option


Tony Stimatz

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I read with interest the recent article about turning the current Daily Advance building into a senior center. While I can appreciate the concept I have to wonder why renovating the old middle school, which Pasquotank County already owns, was not on the table.

The middle school site was discussed at several City Council meetings over the last 6-8 years but somehow never got much support from the city manager. I cannot see how an existing building, with significantly more onsite parking and additional ground for expansion when the old annex is torn down, and access to a gym facility and outdoor recreational space would not be more suitable.

Additionally, its colocation with the Police Athletic League and the Boys & Girls Club would create opportunities for “grandparent mentoring programs” at virtually no cost and with no inconvenience.

The Daily Advance building, while a nice building, does not have these advantages. Even though there is a city parking lot across the street, it is across the street, which exposes seniors to more opportunities for bad interactions with vehicles. Any use by seniors would necessarily reduce the number of spaces available for others who wish to come downtown.

Also, it does not have any real open space onsite for outdoor opportunities. Yes, we can send people across Water Street, but once again we increase the risk of bad outcomes.

Both locations will have to be upgraded for Americans With Disabilities Act requirements and access by the less mobile among us.

Financially, there will be a permanent loss of at least $20,000 in property taxes as well as an additional loss of $1,300 in Downtown District taxes, which go to support our tourism and development program.

At the same time we will be encumbered by $1.15 million of debt at, say, 2 percent for 10 years, which will mean paying $120,000 a year and incurring $120,000 in interest charges. This brings the property acquisition cost to $1.27 million. Where do the city and county propose to find these funds? What impact on property taxes will there be?

At the same time one has to ask how this fits in with the downtown/waterfront master plan which was recently completed. How many other cities anchor their downtown with a senior center? Is this the best use of this valuable waterfront property? Do we really want to lose important tax revenues? Given the recent development of the old candy factory into apartments, would this be a better use of the building?

The renovation cost of the old middle school would have to exceed $1.6 million to even equal the cost of this alternative. I cannot believe that this is the case and believe the positive attributes noted above would make it a better choice even if it cost another $200,000 more to do. Besides, we would recoup this additional amount in eight years and 10 months with the taxes still being paid.

Perhaps someone should ask to see this other alternative. I would if I were sitting in a commissioner’s or council member’s seat.

Tony Stimatz

Elizabeth City