Reporter's note: This headline was updated at 1:53 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
BEAUFORT — After some back and forth, Beaufort commissioners agreed Monday to extend the deadline for a nonprofit to reimburse the town for asbestos abatement at a historic property the organization acquired late last year.
The new agreement with Preservation North Carolina, regarding the Godette Hotel on Pollock Street, came during the commission’s Monday virtual meeting. It allows the nonprofit until Saturday, May 1 to pay the outstanding $8,600 bill.
In early 2020, the town incurred abatement costs as it moved forward with initial demolition proceedings for the building prior to PNC’s purchase. As part of the agreement to stay the demolition order, the nonprofit agreed to reimburse the town by Dec. 31, 2020. After receiving the invoice in mid-December, PNC requested an extension of six months – to Wednesday, June 30 – or until it sells the property.
“This whole thing has been a challenge, and we’re trying to do the right thing,” PNC President Myrick Howard told the board Monday, citing title and postage delays that have made acquiring the property a months-long process.
A number of commissioners expressed reluctance to an extension, particularly one that required no earnest money or accrued interest from PNC.
“I can’t support the request as presented because PNC has not furnished the board with timely updates … that was part of the agreement for the first extension,” Commissioner Marianna Hollinshed said, adding that loaning unsecured town money was “not good practice.”
Commissioner John Hagle, however, advocated for a working relationship with the organization and hammered the board to a bargain.
“Yes, it’s town money. It’s not a significant amount, and I think we’ll recover it when they sell it,” he said.
Ultimately, the board agreed to a three-month extension to begin Monday, Feb. 1. Commissioner Charles McDonald was recused from the discussion and vote at his request, due to previous family ties to the property.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Howard said PNC is committed to saving the historic property, despite what he described as a “complicated” situation.
“This project is one for the long haul, it’s not going to be an easy, overnight (effort),” he said.
The Godette Hotel was built as a family home and hotel from 1946-47 by Henderson Godette Sr. The building served as accommodations and a restaurant for African American travelers to Beaufort in the Jim Crow South.
PNC hopes to secure a buyer to restore the property – likely using the state’s historic tax credit – and preserve landmark elements through use of covenants. Mr. Howard said while the building is sound, it will take significant rehabilitation to be fit for use.
“We’ve been showing the property, we’ve had some interest,” he told the News-Times.
PNC began showings last month, and it is marketing the Godette Hotel on its website at presnc.org/properties/godette-hotel/.
The property’s listed sale price is $250,000 and will include the single-family home at 402 Pollock St., which the nonprofit is in the process of purchasing as well.
In other action at Monday’s meeting, commissioners also agreed to pay cash for a new dump truck for the public utilities department. The truck, which cost $79,600, will be paid for from unrestricted fund balance and replace a 1992 model in use.
After some discussion over possible ramifications of paying cash for the vehicle as opposed to borrowing, commissioners unanimously approved the cash purchase.
Other action taken by Beaufort commissioners Monday included:
· Unanimous approval of the consent agenda, comprised of minutes from the board’s Nov. 23, Dec. 14, Dec. 16 and Dec. 21 meetings.
· Unanimous adoption of a town sewer allocation policy which the board and staff have been revising since October. The document is aimed at ensuring continuing availability of water and sewer to users. At the request of the board, the policy is to include language requiring those seeking sewer from outside corporate limits to agree to annexation at the discretion of the board.
· Recommendation of two legislative goals to put before the N.C. League of Municipalities for 2021-22. Those include granting local governments the authority to build broadband infrastructure in order to partner with private providers and provide additional funding to help close the “digital divide,” and improving processes and payments for moving utility lines located in the right-of-way during transportation projects.
Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.