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Umstead Correctional sound but damaged

Town could refurbish or demolish campus

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BUTNER — Six months after the sale of the former Umstead Correctional Center to the Town of Butner, the town board have an accurate picture of the condition of the property thanks to an assessment delivered to the Board at their Jan. 2 meeting.

The facility, closed in 2009 due to statewide budget cuts, was sold to the town for $1 as part of House Bill 757 signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in July 2019.

The bill gave no mandate for how the Umstead property is to be used by the town of Butner and the property was sold “as is.” Since that time, the town has been in charge of maintaining and looking over the property.

The presentation, delivered by Tony Conner of Raleigh-based architectural firm HagerSmith, detailed the state of the nine buildings on the property from a structural standpoint as well as conditions of mechanical and air quality.

Conner said that most of the buildings seem structurally sound, however his team was unable to enter three of the buildings due to them being previously condemned so only an exterior inspection could proceed.

Butner Mayor Terry Turner later clarified that only one building, Building 2, had been condemned after conferring with the State Fire Marshal who has the power to exercise such action.

“Building 2, which I guess was the home for the person in charge of the campus, is in really bad shape,” Conner told the board, elaborating the flooring is warped to the point of looking like “one of those houses at a carnival” as well as multiple leaks and a failing chimney.

Conner went on to say that the rest of the buildings look structurally sound with leaks from the roof and walls but seeing the most damage in Buildings 1-4. Most of the original construction of the Umstead campus occurred around 1957, with the newer buildings constructed in the early-mid 1980s.

After receiving the report, the Board discussed various actions that must be taken in order to refurbish the buildings including a mechanical overhaul, leak repairs and an asbestos assessment.

“I want to remind the council that the Town of Butner never intended to go into this alone.” Mayor Turner said. “We have talked about partnerships with various companies and organizations to remodel the property.”

It was also noted that remodeling the buildings, especially the residential areas that housed the correctional cells, would be inherently difficult due to the concrete construction.

“We knew since acquiring this property that it’s going to take at least $1 million on just the gym to renovate and bring it up to code,” said councilman Tom Lane. Lane also said that the assessment gave the board great guidance to determine whatever next action they take.

Other options that remain on the table include demolition of the buildings which the town could do since none of the buildings are designated historical landmarks.

In appointments, Martin Sinicki, James Adams and Bill Cheek were reappointed to the town Planning Board for four-year terms through. Cheek was also reappointed to three-year terms on the town Board of Adjustment along with Bill Crosby and Constance Wortham.

The next regular meeting of the Butner Town Council will be 7 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Butner Town Hall, 415 Central Ave.