SNOW HILL – Facing renovation costs of more than a million dollars, county officials are now considering giving up the landmark Oscar Purnell house in downtown Snow Hill.
The Worcester County Commissioners this week expressed an interest in getting rid of the Oscar Purnell house — known by its red brick and white columns — rather than perform the extensive renovations needed to make the building usable. Several commissioners spoke in favor of giving it to the Town of Snow Hill.
“I think it’d be a great cornerstone for the Town of Snow Hill,” said Commissioner Ted Elder.
Based on an earlier request from the commissioners, County Attorney Sonny Bloxom explained how the county could go about divesting itself of the property. He said that as long as it was advertised and there was a public hearing, the commissioners could sell it or give it away for public use. He pointed out that could only occur with a five-sevenths majority vote by the commissioners.
He said if the Town of Snow Hill was interested in the property, which the county has owned since 1955, town leaders should let the commissioners know and outline the “public purpose” they had in mind for it.
Charlie Dorman, mayor of Snow Hill, said the town was indeed interested in it.
“It’s a valuable piece of property,” he said. “It’d be great for Snow Hill to have it to use.”
Commissioner Bud Church agreed that it could be a useful property but cautioned Dorman to consider the repairs that would still be needed before the building could be used.
Though the county spent $565,000 between 2010 and 2011 to make exterior improvements to the 3,000-square-foot home, engineers determined that including the work needed on the interior of the structure would bring costs to nearly $1.7 million.
In spite of the fact that the building, which was deeded to Worcester County by former owner Sallie Outten for $100, was long used by the Worcester County Commission on Aging, it’s now in need of extensive repairs. According to county staff, the house needs asbestos and lead paint remediation, wiring and lighting, sprinklers, plumbing, insulation and accessibility improvements, among other things. The work would end up costing about $550 a square foot.