LUMBERTON — For the second time since October, 2016, the Public Schools of Robeson County finds itself without a permanent central office.
Hurricane Florence, as it did much of the county, swamped the system’s temporary headquarters at the old BB&T call center on Kahn Drive in Lumberton. About 80 employees were working at the office.
Hurricane Matthew destroyed the system’s longtime central office on Oct. 8, 2016, sending staff to the Angel Exchange building at COMtech on a temporary basis. Earlier this year, the county Board of Commissioners, led by Chairman Raymond Cummings, attempted to buy the Angel Exchange building as a permanent location for the system.
Cummings said then that the building had a potential buyer and he did not want it to be purchased out from under the school system, leaving the central office without a home.
The building was listed at about $6 million, and eventually, after the school board said it was not interested, talk of the purchase went away. It was also learned during that time that the building was far behind in property taxes and its value after revaluation was less than $3 million.
Angel Exchange has not been purchased, and COMtech has pursued foreclosure over delinquent fees it is owed.
In July, the central office moved into the old BB&T building, which also was flooded during Matthew.
During the weekend and while the storm was still battering Robeson County, Cummings on his Facebook page posted without comment a photo of the flooded BB&T building and one of Angel Exchange, which apparently did not have flooding inside.
Florence also forced the cancellation last week of the school board meeting, and school has been out since Wednesday. It is unknown when the schools will reopen, but five of them, Lumberton High, Purnell Swett High, St. Pauls High, Red Springs High and Fairmont Middle, are being used as shelters.
The Robesonian will update this story as developments warrant.