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Henderson County consummated the purchase of the Hendersonville Christian School property on Thursday, nine days after the lender who held the note on the property threatened to withdraw the bank's consent to the sale.
The purchase clears the way for the county to begin development of what it immediately named the Athletics and Activities Center, giving the Recreation Department its own gym for the first time ever. The county plans to use the classroom building for recreation activities as well, moving Stoney Mountain Community Center events to the South Grove Street complex.
Henderson County officials enlisted the help of state Sen. Tom Apodca to urge the state attorney general's office to approve the transaction. The sale of assets of a non-profit has to be approved by the attorney general under state law and the A.G.'s office had delayed the sale while it looked into how the proceeds would be used.
Apodaca said Friday he had checked on the situation two to three weeks ago.
"We called over there and I was under the assumption it had been handled," he said. When he learned last week that the banker's threat jeopardized the sale, he said, "I called my attorney and told him, find out what the hell’s going on," he said. The attorney told the AG's office "we really need to get this done or the bank’s going to pull the deal."
"We would like to thank Senator Tom Apodaca for this assistance in finalizing the acquisition of the facility," County Manager Steve Wyatt said in a news release issued by the county.
The TD bank warned the county on Jan. 16 that the bank would pull its approval of the short sale and proceed to foreclosure.
"As I interpret our current situation, the remaining issues with the AG revolve around the surplus funds not the sale," Jeff Griffin, a TD Bank vice president who specializes in working out repayment of commercial loans, wrote to the parties in the sale. "Accordingly, I do not see where this is either the concern of the County nor TD Bank. The sale should be concluded, TD paid, title transferred to the County, with the remaining funds placed with the Clerk of Court."
"Accordingly, please be advised that the sale must be concluded within 10 days or the settlement will be considered void and the Bank will resume its foreclosure forthwith."
In the same email, Griffin ordered a subordinate to "update title and perform whatever actions are necessary upfront so that we do not lose any further time in this matter."
The email reached County Attorney Russ Burrell during a Board of Commissioners budget work session, and set up an unusual situation where he was able to report, in real time and in public, that the deal for the gym, classroom and schoolgrounds was in danger of collapse.
Henderson County Board of Commissioners has set aside a total of $2.1 million for the land purchase and improvements. The sale price was $910,000.
Skip Goldsmith, a Hendersonville attorney who was the last headmaster of the school, said the sale of the land and buildings wraps up most of the liquidation of assets he has managed since the school closed in May 2012.
"It turned out to be a great deal all the way around," Goldsmith said. "The school community — the students, teachers and parents — were very interested in what was going to become of the property and from what I understand there's not going to be a lot of change to the exterior of the buildings."
The county will begin work to make the facility ready for public use with a target of having the gymnasium available for use in early spring. County staff will be preparing bid specifications for the artificial turf on the athletic fields. At the same time the county will make changes to bring the building into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to move ahead with sale, with the no vote coming from Commissioner Bill O'Connor. Commissioner Grady Hawkins, who defeated O'Connor in the May 2012 Republican primary, said during the budget work session on Jan. 16 that the board should consider delaying some of the improvements — he specifically mentioned the artificial turf soccer field — in order to fund other improvements while also cutting the tax rate by 1.4 cents per $100 valuation.