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Commissioners move toward purchase of school campus

County officials say the Hendersonville Christian School gym could be used to expand indoor recreation programs. County officials say the Hendersonville Christian School gym could be used to expand indoor recreation programs.

Henderson County commissioners moved a significant step toward buying the old Hendersonville Christian School property, setting a special meeting for next Wednesday to authorize the purchase.

While the commissioners expressed reservations over some parts of the proposed purchase and said they wanted to make sure Jackson Park improvements don't get left behind, all said they viewed the property as an opportunity worth strong consideration.
"I think it's something doable," said chairman Tommy Thompson. "I think it's something we need to take advantage of."
County Manager Steve Wyatt said the "negotiated price" had dropped to $910,000 from the original asking price of $1.2 million.
"This is an issue of public investment," he told the board after showing the board a slide presentation of the classroom building, gym, ballfield and playground and suggesting an array of indoor and outdoor recreation the county could offer. "If you are interested at that negotiated price we can certainly map out programming 12 months of the year for the use of this property."
The cost won't end wit the purchase, he warned. Total estimated startup costs would be $1,017,000, including work to make the buildings handicapped accessible, new heating and air units for the gym, additional parking and artificial turf that Wyatt said would greatly expand the life and usability of the ballfield.
He anticipates that the county would apply for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund of up to $500,000 if it buys the property.
"There's no guarantee but we would be extremely competitive," he said.
Besides the initial capital investment, the county would add a maintenance worker and recreation program supervisor to look after and operate the facility and would pay a light bill and other costs, adding up to $186,200 a year. A $200,000 a year payment for recreation development commissioners authorized last spring could become an annual payment to operate the new facility.
"It all starts with why," Commissioner Bill O'Connor said. "Why are we doing this and what are we going to do with it."
Commissioners Charlie Messer and Mike Edney both said they want to make sure moving ahead with the purchase of the 9.5 acre campus does not set aside improvements to the soccer and baseball fields at Jackson Park, which coaches say are inadequate for tournament play. Tournament play is important to the county, commissioners say, because tournaments can attract families from across the region who stay in local motels and spend money here.
The commissioners appeared to be leaning against the use of the classroom building as a new headquarters for the Board of Elections, at least if O'Connor's view is persuasive. He said he hoped "we would maintain the majority of the school building for public use, in the sense of non-government use. I would hope we could stick with that."
Wyatt had presented a menu of options for use of the 12,000-square-foot classroom building, including administrative offices, the elections board or recreational activities. For the gym, he suggested the county could offer indoor soccer, paddle tennis, badminton, floor hockey, a rock-climbing wall and a large floor space for social events. In three annex rooms off the gym floor perimeter, options included martial arts, self-defense, aerobics, yoga, dance classes, fitness, drama and training.
"Very seldom do you see a perfect opportunity, Wyatt said. "This isn't a perfect opportunity. What we're asking you to do is look at this and think about it."
The county staff will bring back options for recreation programming at the meeting next Wednesday at 6 p.m. The public also will be invited to speak.