The Selma Town Council took the first step Tuesday night towards a Civic Center. In a split 3-to-2 vote, the town council agreed to offer the Selma American Legion $60,000 for a building they own on North Webb Street. Councilmen William Overby and Tommy Holmes voted against the purchase.
During their October board meeting, Ann Williams, a former associate superintendent for Johnston County Schools, appeared before the Town Board with the idea. The building was constructed in 1936 and repair estimates are close to $300,000.
The Legion has been attempting to sell the building for several months and had been asking $125,000 for the 5,000 plus square foot building.
Williams envisions refurbishing the building, keeping many of the facilities historic features, while adding modern amenities. The Civic Center could be rented out to businesses and individuals for events, gatherings, meetings, weddings, family reunions, entertainment, and much more.
Williams says the closest location to hold a similar venue would be at The Farm near Micro.
The Town agreed to offer the Legion $60,000, to be paid over a 3 year period. Councilman Eric Sellers said if the Legion is agreeable to the terms, the Town could then begin exploring possible grants to pay for the renovation cost.
A Community Development Block Grant was used for the renovation of the Harrison Center but would not be available for this project. A Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant could offer up to $1 million but bidding for the grant doesn’t begin until May 2016. A USDA Rural Development Grant was discussed as a possibility. Officials have also reached out to Congressman David Rouzer’s office to see if any federal funding is available.
Sellers said it was a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. “There is risk but a tremendous upside.” However, if grant money could not be found, Sellers said the town should be able to sell the property for the purchase price. “If you get in, figure it will not work, you can get out of it.”
Councilman Overby requested citizens be given a chance to give their opinion on the project at the December meeting before the council voted. Councilman Holmes expressed concern about Selma’s current finances and felt it would be a waste of taxpayer’s money. “If we keep buying up property in Selma, we’ll lose the tax base.”
Councilwoman Jackie Lacy responded by saying, “In the long run, the building will pay for itself.”
Williams suggested engraved bricks could be sold for $100 each and made into pavers for the entryway to the new Civic Center. For every 1,000 bricks sold, the town would generate $80,000 in revenue.
Town Attorney Chip Hewett will prepare a formal offer of $60,000 from the Town of Selma for the building purchase to the American Legion for their consideration.