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New vision for OZS

By Dwain W. Penn Zebulon mayor Joe Walter and council held a called meeting March 25 and discussed the Old Zebulon School (OZS) project, noting the history of the project has generated local and regional interest and a second look may prove successful for its future. ’Our previous discussion of the Old Zebulon School was last July when we received cost estimates for the project,’ said Walter. ‘It appeared to be a cost that was out of our league to have a debt to repair the school. Kirby Glaze, who worked with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on the project had a few suggestions on how to make it affordable.’ ’The DDA has the school roofed and stabilized but doesn’t have a development partner to move forward. It has a building that will take money to improve to make it usable. There was a discussion about the city needing space in the future for government operations. Glaze has proposed a solution to achieve success. There is $413,000 in historic tax credit money that can be applied to the project, reducing the amount of money to be spent. ’The project would include the DDA, city of Zebulon and Glaze’s firm, the capital development partners, and other public private partnerships to develop the building site. The DDA would transfer ownership to the capital development partners for at least five years. An agreement then would be signed by the city to lease 49% of the building, under 50%, to qualify for tax credits. The majority of the project must be privately leaseable property. The city would move the clerk’s office, the city administrator office and the council chambers to the OZS. Two classrooms and the auditorium would remain separate and be leased to tenants. Leases would provide revenue to offset cost of renovations. After five years the tax credit ends making it free to be developed. However, the city or the DDA could buy Glaze’s firm out. The benefit of a private partner is they will guarantee a price on cost of renovations. Once a design is completed, it won’t be any more than that; contractors will make that happen. This proposed plan is two years in the future, subject to change, and provides one way to accomplish the OZS renovations,’ said Walter. According to mayor Walter, financing the project would come from the DDA issuing bonds for 15 years to cover the approximately $2 million cost. To ease the burden for the city, it would consolidate its current loan with a new loan as part of its rental of government offices at the school, benefiting the renovation. Leasing space to private tenants would help alleviate any strain on the city’s budget. When the plan is implemented and proves successful, it could potentially open up that part of town to an economic boom of development. The initial planned budget does include parking, providing for both current and future needs. Walter closed his remarks with the assessment that if the city looked into a similar venture using raw land, if property was available in that area, it would cost $3 million. Council also expedited the closing of a pending USDA loan/grant and to initiate activity for the anticipated Pike County Water Planning project. COUNCIL ALSO: ’¢Â Held the second reading of the ordinance of annexation and zoning of the water plant property with no changes. Approval of the ordinance passed, effective date March 25, 2021. ’¢ Accepted the letter of conditions and approved to move forward with the USDA loan of $60,100 and grant of $49,900, combined for the purchase of a new police car and backhoe. The loan repayment will be five years at $1,058 per month. Closing should occur within 30 days. ’¢ Heard Walter and city administrator Larry Mitcham will continue to serve as city representatives on the planning committee for the Pike County Water Planning project. Work will begin soon and the first item is to establish a county-wide committee and to select a consultant.

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