A property donation offer to the county this week leaves the future of a temporarily closed vocational center in question.
County Manager Bryan Land on Tuesday told the Richmond County Board of Commissioners that the McLaurin Center in Hamlet had offered to donate 21 parcels of land with eight warehouses, which he called “a great opportunity.”
“These folks … have come to Richmond County and offered to donate it free of charge,” he said.
The donation, according to Land, is “contingent on the McLaurin Center board’s formal approval of the donation and review of all the documentation by myself and attorney (Stephan) Futrell.”
Hamlet City Clerk and Zoning Administrator Gail Strickland, who was unaware of the donation offer, said Wednesday that 21 parcels might could include a sizable chunk of land, but because “lots in downtown Hamlet used to be very small,” it would be difficult to tell without looking at the county’s GIS map.
While the tax cards on the GIS site have been temporarily disabled, the map shows 21 connected parcels in the area of the center.
The center — which provides training for mentally and physically disabled adults in Richmond, Anson and Scotland counties — has been closed temporarily since Feb. 9 because it failed to renew its state license on time.
Center Director Holleigh McLaurin has said the center was tardy in submitting its application for renewal but had done so. She said the center had not received the email reminders.
A spokesman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said its inspectors were “waiting to hear from (the McLaurin Center) to reschedule an on-site visit that was originally set for Monday.
McLaurin said early this week that the center asked for a postponement because potential buyers were looking at property the center wanted to sell.
When asked whether the center was closing, Land said, “That is what we have heard. I know about as much as anybody else — just what we’ve read in the newspaper. They have not released any of that information to us.”
All nonprofit 501(c)(3) agencies must file incorporation papers with the office of the N.C. Secretary of State.
According to papers on file with that office, the McLaurin Center was established in February 1967, under the name Richmond Skills Inc. It changed its name to the “McLaurin Vocational Training Center Inc.” in September 1969.
The center’s articles of incorporation state that the agency will provide job-training “services and facilities” for “handicapped persons,” as well as a workshop providing training leading to employment.
Article 7 of the incorporation papers says that if the center were to dissolve, the assets left after bills had been paid must be “be distributed to any association … organized for purposes” of vocational training for the handicapped. Such a clause its legally binding, a spokesman for the office said.
In an email, Land said — while prefacing that he is not a legal expert — that he assumed the center would have to dissolve its 501(c)(3) status before its property could be donated to a government entity.
As of Thursday, the center had not filed a notice with the secretary of state’s office saying it intended to dissolve. If it did so, it would have to transfer to a similar nonprofit what assets remained after paying its bills.
County Attorney Stephan Futrell Could not be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday. Alden Webb, attorney for the McLaurin Center board, also could not be reached Thursday.
Holleigh McLaurin has not returned calls to her cellphone or office telephone on Wednesday or Thursday.
By Thursday, many McLaurin Center clients had found placements with the nine providers coordinated by the Sandhills Center, said Anthony Ward, deputy director and chief operating for the center. The Sandhills Center does not provide care but helps clients find providers in its nine member counties, which include Richmond and Anson but not Scotland County, Ward said.
“We have a number (of clients) who have transitioned (and) some still looking,” Ward said.
Whether those placements could become permanent instead of temporary — as clients were told last month they would be — “we don’t know yet,” Ward added.
“The last I heard,” he said, the McLaurin Center still was seeking license renewal. If it renewed its license, he said, the clients could return.
“I would really hate to see it close down,” said Commissioner Thad Ussery, who is also chairman of the Sandhills Center board. He added that it could take two or three months for the center to complete the licensing process.
When asked about the stipulation that the property be used for a similar purpose to what it was previously used for in the event of its dissolution, Ussery said he had no knowledge of that clause.
“That still wouldn’t affect us because it could still be used for something I’m sure,” Ussery said. “If it has to be used for the same thing that it was then I’m sure Sandhills could find something for it.”