Community not ready to give up. Gym and library will be saved.
Members of the Boone Trail community were told Monday night they have one year to come up with a plan to save the historic school building which has stood for 90 years.
Harnett County officials held a public meeting to discuss the future of the old Boone Trail School building and the site where it stands. They said, because of the cost of renovating the structure, the building, which was built in 1928, will be demolished by the end of next year unless the community comes up with a plan to save it.
“We aren’t pushing it out any further,” said Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart.
The demolition plan involves the main school building on the site. It does not include the gym, built in 1956, and the media center, which was built in 2005. Those buildings will remain open as part of a community center.
The demolition is scheduled for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. That means the building will come down sometime between June 30, 2019, and July 1, 2020.
Harnett County Parks and Recreation Director Carl Davis said the newer buildings are heavily used by the community. More than 2,000 people have taken part in open gym activities at the site.
An estimated 15,000 people have used the gym or media center in the last year since a community center was located at the site. That includes library programs, but the number of people who have checked out materials from the library could be even higher.
“We want to give something back to this community because you have supported us so well,” Mr. Davis said.
The media center and gym are not included in demolition plans.
The existing school building has deteriorated severely since students stopped using the school in 2010 when a new school opened several miles away. The military used parts of the structure for training which caused damages. Vandals have also damaged the appearance of the structure with graffiti.
It will cost approximately $300,000 to demolish the structure. It would cost approximately $7 million to renovate the structure to a usable condition.
“The county can’t afford to renovate this building,” Harnett County Assistant Manager Brian Haney said.
Much of the cost associated with the renovation is due to asbestos in the walls of the structure. The substance, which is considered a cause of cancer, has to be removed before the general public can use the building.
The ultimate plan for the site, following the demolition, is a park. A walking trail and picnic shelter are included in plans.
Mr. Davis said the front of the building, with the school named engraved, could be salvaged as an entryway to the park.
Members of the crowd of approximately 50 people want to try to save the building. Talks are now underway with a group called Preservation North Carolina which purchases and renovates old buildings for future uses.
Mr. Haney said he talked with officials with the organization Monday and hopes to have more discussions. The organization has expressed interest in possibly saving the building.
Members of the crowd said they want to try and save the historic structure. It served the community first as a community school for kindergarten through 12th grade students before transferring to an elementary school with the opening of Western Harnett Middle School and Western Harnett High School. It was given the name Boone Trail because legend says Daniel Boone once passed by the site where the school stands.
Dr. Eldon Sloan read a statement representing supporters of the structure.
“We can’t not try to save this building,” Dr. Sloan said. “It represents who we have been and it is much of our identity. We must act together to save this building. Without this building we don’t have a tangible sign of who we are.”
Harnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gordon Springle said the county is willing to work with the community.
“We are looking for another option besides demolishing the building,” Mr. Springle said. “We can’t afford to save every building at every site, but we want you to succeed and we are giving you the time to do it.”
One speaker, Patsy Taylor, said she would rather the county spend funds to help young people instead of renovating the building.
“I would rather see the county use that money to help the young people of our community,” Ms. Taylor said.