Published: Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 4:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 4:38 p.m.
Contract for school resurfaces at meeting
By Heather J. Smith
The Davidson County Board of Commissioners talked Thursday morning about its
decision last month to buy the former location of Davidson Country Day School
for $1.825 million before all commissioners had read the contract.
“I came in and picked up my agenda packet and when I saw Davidson Country
Day School on there, I thought it was another discussion,” said Vice
Chairman Sam Watford. “I didn’t know we were going to buy it then.”
He admitted there was time for him to check back with the county manager’s
office and discover the contract, but he would have if he knew of the county’s
haste to enter into a contract.
“I don’t understand why there was such a rush. We had until (Aug.) 28th to
close. Why couldn’t we have discussed it then and made the decision today?”
Watford said. “I didn’t realize all the backs had already been slapped and
the cigars had been smoked.”
Since last month’s meeting, Watford said he found other commissioners had not
seen it either. He also discovered that he and others were under the
misconception the property was owned by the bank that issued the mortgage,
Bank of North Carolina, because the county was dealing directly with bank
officials. It was instead fully owned by Davidson Academy LLC.
Watford said both he and Commissioner Larry Potts make income off buying
and selling real estate. They both believe the best way to land a low price on
property is to negotiate with the owners, which takes time.
“We could have dealt directly with Davidson Academy,” he said. “They
were the true owners of the property. We could have negotiated for a better
Potts echoed Watford, saying discussions in both closed and open session never
ventured to who owned the property. A quick close on a property was in the
best interest of the bank, Potts said, avoiding a foreclosure on their books
and potential effect on stock value. The county had, as he put it, “bailed
out” Bank of North Carolina and Davidson Academy by agreeing to buy the
“The bank didn’t lose on this, the bank came out smelling like a rose,” Potts
Chairman Fred McClure disagreed.
“We had all the information before us the whole time,” he said. “There was no
bailout, there are no individual owners that are getting kickbacks from this.”
He said most commissioners thought the purchase was an excellent opportunity,
and the county had the money set aside to cover the purchase price. When Bank
of North Carolina approached the county with the $1.825 million price, it was
eager to secure a bargain before another investor offering more struck a deal
“There were other buyers for the property, some that were willing to pay off
the whole note. We had to move fast,” McClure said.
Commissioners Dr. Max Walser and Cathy Dunn voiced their support for the
purchase, but Billy Joe Kepley summarized why details about ownership and
which commissioners read the contract before it was voted on was not the issue
for him. The county’s definite need for more space was all the justification
“We could spend $1.8 million now and save $5 million over five years,” Kepley
There have been some negative words about the purchase, Kepley said, but not
addressed to him directly.
“I haven’t had the first person contact me against this,” he said. “Many, many
people have praised this.”
Dunn said she had also heard positive public reaction to the contract and is
mystified about the concern over details.
The bank had a note, we had to negotiate with the bank,” she said. “And we did
negotiate the price down several hundred thousand dollars.”
Commissioner Don Truell, silent until the end of the discussion, offered a
“It’s done, and we’ve voted for it, so I guess that’s the end of it,” he said.
“But after everything that was said today, I still can’t understand why the
bank would sell property for a loss when there were buyers willing to pay off
the entire debt.”
In other matters, the board also discussed a request made by the Town of
Denton to extend its extraterritorial jurisdiction to a full mile beyond the
city limit lines. Commissioners will explore holding a special public
information session about the ETJ expansion at a later date.
Heather J. Smith can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 228 or at
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