By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The old Cherokee High School building, which has sat vacant since 2009, will be demolished. Tribal Council passed a resolution during its regular Budget Council session on Tuesday, Aug. 1 authorizing the EBCI Division of Commerce and the Tribal Finance Office to “identify and secure funding” for that demolition.
The resolution, which passed 10-0 (Big Cove Reps. Teresa McCoy and Richard French were absent for that vote), states in part, “The existing old high school building is in ill-repair from years of sitting vacant and numerous types of vandalism, this building poses a safety and health hazard to our public…there is a great need for this condemned or non-functional building to be demolished to save the Tribe approximately $465,000 per year.”
According to numbers provided by EBCI Commerce officials, the vacant building has been costing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians an average of $1,273.82 per day in utility costs.
“We had a good discussion on Planning Board on this project, and we hoped that the Multi-Sports Complex and the retail would be accomplished within the same project,” Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley, who serves as Planning Board chairman, stated during discussion on the issue on Tuesday.
During the July 17 Planning Board meeting referenced by Rep. Ensley, Commerce officials presented four options for the 21.4 acre site including: Multi-Sports Complex, some form of niche retail, cultural diversity with retail, and a five-star grocery store with retail.
In a One Feather interview on July 26, EBCI Commerce Secretary Mickey Duvall said, “Of those four projects, the number one project that they liked was the Multi-Sports Complex, and that would be in conjunction with other sports facilities we have in Cherokee.”
He added, “We’ll have to coordinate what we build up there with what we already have. Obviously, if we’ve got enough softball fields, we don’t need to build softball fields. But, if we need a multi-purpose facility to hold wrestling tournaments or others, we’ll build it up there.”
During Tuesday’s Budget Council session, Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha stressed the need to maximize the site. “You may be able to put more than one of these projects on there depending on how the land lays so we’re not piecemealing another project that we can capitalize on the whole tract that is setting there. It’s in the business district, and I think we could really use that with bringing more people in with our diversification.”
An exact amount for the demolition wasn’t listed in the resolution passed on Tuesday, but Commerce officials did relate during a July 12 working session that a full demo would cost around $783,660.
During that July 12 working session, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed commented, “Granted, it would be nice to have an administrative building there. It would be nice to have cultural things there or anything of the sorts, but whatever the decision is, we have to be honest with ourselves that right now our spending is outpacing the amount of revenue that can be generated by gaming.”
In that same meeting, Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith advocated for the demolition of the building, “The numbers aren’t there for this building. We moved out of it and built a new school for a reason, because it was old and it was run down and there were problems with it. I think that it’s time has come and gone.”
This month’s Planning Board session is set for Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 1pm in the Tribal Council Chambers. The agenda for that meeting has not yet been set.