Pasquotank agrees to sell ex-health building for childcare center
By Jon Hawley
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Pasquotank County commissioners have agreed to sell the county's former health department building to an entrepreneur who's proposing to turn it into a childcare center.
Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to start the upset bid process to sell the building to Rhonda McCullen for $100,000. The building will be sold to McCullen unless the county receives — and commissioners accept — a better offer.
Located at 311 Cedar Street, the former health department building offers about 11,000 square feet of space.
It's also the building that Elizabeth City City Council recently tried, and failed, to secure for a homeless shelter. After weeks of failed negotiations over a lease, Pasquotank commissioners withdrew their offer to the city and voted to sell the property last month.
McCullen currently operates the Kids-N-Play childcare center at 504 Albemarle Drive, and is also a board member of the Albemarle Alliance for Children and Families, formerly known as the Albemarle Smart Start Partnership. She explained her plans for the former health building in a letter to County Manager Sparty Hammett.
“My plans are to use this property for a childcare/preschool program as well as an after-school program,” McCullen wrote in part. “We will also have licensed caregivers that will provide tutorial services to all children enrolled in our program.”
McCullen could not be reached for comment Tuesday. It's not clear if Kids-N-Play would move to 311 Cedar Street, or if it would operate as a separate, second facility.
In presenting McCullen's offer to commissioners on Monday, Hammett reported the health department building has been appraised at $110,000. Since McCullen was offering close to that amount, he recommended commissioners accept her offer.
Commissioners supported selling the building, but Commissioner Frankie Meads suggested the county should run larger newspaper advertisements to make more potential buyers aware of the property. People often overlook the small legal notices the county has published, and he said he's shown the property to another potential buyer.
Other commissioners didn't support Meads' suggestion. They noted The Daily Advance has publicized the property in articles dealing with the homeless shelter issue, and Commissioner Barry Overman also expressed concerns about using special advertising for the property after accepting McCullen's offer.
A Pasquotank resident wants to buy the property and reinvest in the community, so the county should move forward, Overman said.
Hammett and County Attorney Mike Cox shared two important points about the potential sale. Hammett said McCullen's offer is contingent on a 30-day “due diligence” period, during which she will verify that 311 Cedar Street can become a licensed childcare center. Both the state of North Carolina and the city of Elizabeth City must approve that use, he said.
Cox also said that, if the upset bid process yields more offers for the property, the county is free to accept any or none of them. State law requires local governments go through the upset bid process to sell property. The requirement helps ensure public property is sold with transparency and at a fair price.
Following Monday's meeting, Hammett said in an email that proceeds from the sale will go to Pasquotank's capital reserves, and there are no immediate plans to spend the money.
In her letter, McCullen wrote she is seeking to provide a much-needed service for local families.
“A quality after-school program is in high demand in this area,” she said. “Many parents are left with making a decision of leaving their children at home alone due to lack of availability of quality afterschool care.”
The state's Division of Child Development and Early Education oversees childcare centers. It has given high marks to Kids-N-Play. It is rated at five of five stars, reflecting staff education and program standards, and ranked “superior” in cleanliness in its last inspection two months ago.