In an effort to preserve the historical Lake Hall Schoolhouse, Leon County Commissioners voted unanimously to bring back an item for the board’s consideration during the next meeting. The item will propose a maximum proposal of a $20,000 lease for a property on Thomasville Road that borders the schoolhouse.
Additionally, Commissioner Nick Maddox also motioned for another item to be brought back during the first budget meeting in June to discuss adding $866,000 to next year’s budget to secure the surrounding properties and the schoolhouse.
The Lake Hall School House is a Reconstruction-era African American schoolhouse built circa 1870, located on privately-owned property near Thomasville Road, approximately three-quarters of a mile northeast of Maclay Gardens State Park.
During the last county commission meeting in April, commissioners asked staff to inquire about purchasing the properties. The total project cost, including the restoration of the schoolhouse and other required improvements, was estimated to be $3.3 million.
Over the last several years, the county has conducted many reviews exploring options to preserve the schoolhouse, including restoration, relocating the structure, and partnering with local groups to manage the schoolhouse.
Maddox stated he doesn’t like the idea of depleting the county’s contingency funds for the current fiscal year when hurricane season is upon us. Commissioners Jackson, Dozier, and Proctor agreed, and there was an extensive discussion between the commissioners and fiery words by public speakers.
Commissioner Brian Welch suggested that waiting to acquire the land may prove a mistake as it may not be for sale when they are ready to make the purchase.
As it stands now, three parcels would need to be purchased to secure the schoolhouse.
One property owner would prefer the schoolhouse be relocated. However, if that were not possible, he would sell that portion of the property for $50,000 and require the county to build a privacy fence along the purchased property line.
Another property owner, indicated that she is willing to sell the entire parcel of land for $350,000. Unfortunately, there is no recent appraisal report available for this parcel, and it appears the owner is asking for greater than the market value.
The last piece of land is a single-family residential property on Thomasville Road, currently listed for $425,000. This particular piece of land provides direct access to the schoolhouse and space to support needed infrastructure.
Based on the owners’ asking prices, the estimated cost to acquire the three properties discussed above would be approximately $866,000, roughly $291,000 higher than initially estimated.
The funds to proceed with the purchase would be available in October of this year if the board approves the funds to be budgeted for FY 2022-2023.
Maddox said, “at some point, we have to come to a resolution, there is no doubt that this board cares about preserving this property,” as there have been four meetings since December 2021, and now there will be a fifth and sixth scheduled.