DIARY - OUR ROYAL BATTLE
This Diary shows the will and determination of the Citizens of Hildebran. It documents the actions of the Mayor and Council and the battles we have endured this far in our fight to save our Lady Castle. The newest entries are at the beginning. Scroll to bottom and read to the top to read what order these events took place.
The oldest part (built in 1917) of our beloved school is now gone but the iconic tower and the breezeway still stand. They are awaiting work to begin on the memorial park.
November 7, 2017
It's election day! The new town of Hildebran mayor is Mr. Wendell Hildebrand and the three new council members are Cole Herrell, Ben Honeycutt, and Michael Smith. This is GREAT news for the town of Hildebran. It is time to start healing our little town after so much loss in the past few years. A small part of justice was served today with the election results.
With the mayor and three council seats becoming open, the 2017 election is very important for the town of Hildebran. For those that wanted to save the old school building but their voices were not heard, it is imperative to elect people who will listen to the citizens' wishes. Running for Mayor is the incumbent Virginia "Jennie" Cook and Wendell Hildebrand who had also served as mayor in the past. Running for the three open town council seats are Karen Robinson, Cole Herrell, Michael Smith, and Ben Honeycutt. A PAC (Political Action Committee), called "Hildebran Community Action Group" was formed to support some of the candidates. This PAC purchased and paid for the NEVER FORGET sign that was hung at the old train depot location in the middle of town. The sign has since been donated to the Hildebran Heritage Museum. While the sign did not name any candidates names, it got the point across loud and clear.
June 16, 2017
May 5, 2017
The town held a special meeting to discuss the school building. Town attorney, Redmond Dill stated that HHDA had done what the town required regarding the agreement to save the tower and breezeway. The town voted to accept D.H. Griffin's bid to demolish the old school building but leaving the tower and breezeway in place. Demolition will begin once the appeal to the NC Supreme Court is withdrawn.
May 2, 2017
HHDA held a special meeting in the town's council chambers as requested by the town. Vice-President, Johnny Childers responded to some remarks given by the towns attorney, Redmond Dill made at the April 24 meeting. HHDA is an organization made up of 8 board members and volunteers. All HHDA business is voted upon by the 8 board members. Seven board members were present at the meeting. Johnny Childers made a motion to withdraw the appeal to the NC Supreme Court in exchange for the town agreeing to save the tower, breezeway and connection wall. Bill Gregg seconded the motion. The motion carried 7-0.
April 25, 2017
An appeal to the NC Supreme Court was filed by HHDA. Due to the council not taking action at the April 24th meeting to save the tower and breezeway HHDA felt they needed to protect their interests and the only way to do that was to file the appeal so the school could not be touched until a definite agreement with the town could be reached. April 25th was the deadline to file the appeal.
April 24, 2017
At the monthly Town Council meeting, the discussion regarding the old school building continued. The town had solicited two bids from engineers for a price to evaluate the tower and breezeway. Only one engineer gave a bid of $150 to determine the structural integrity of the structures with another $5,600 needed to determine what would be necessary to ensure the structural integrity remains intact during the demolition of the surrounding burned out building. The council decided to table the vote until Friday, April 28, 2017 at a 5:00 meeting. The other item discussed was the opening of bids for demolition of the school building. Only one bidder submitted a bid. The town did NOT add the alternates to the request for qualifications as discussed at the last town council meeting where it was agreed there needed to be alternates to the demolition bid to include demolition NOT INCLUDING the tower and breezeway. The town administrator is going to contact the one bidder and get a quote for demolishing ONLY the burned section of the school while leaving intact the tower and breezeway. A vote on accepting the bid was also tabled until the Friday, April 28, 2017 meeting.
March 27, 2017
At the monthly Town Council meeting, several town citizens were allowed time on the agenda to propose a plan to the town. The gentlemen, Harold Greenhill, Sonny Abernathy, and Jack Ray Hodges spoke of the importance of the school tower. The school tower has withstood floods, a tornado, a hurricane, and even a fire. It is a symbol of the people of Hildebran's strength and courage to overcome adversity. Our town is deeply divided and needs to become reunited again. The tower is on the town seal. She deserves the right to stand proud. The proposal is to save the tower and the breezeway of the old school, and constructing an extension to join the two pieces. A Hildebran Memorial Park is proposed to sit where the old burned out school currently sits. The tower will watch over the park as it does the town. There were many suggestions for the park including a walkway constructed of memorial pavers in honor/memory of old classmates with the Royal school mascot in the center, a permanent covered stage to be used for cruise-ins and other town sponsored events, benches, landscaping, splash pad, small ampitheater, etc.
The first step in implementing this proposal was to get the town to agree on obtaining a structural engineer to determine the structural integrity of the two structures. With a vote of 4-1 (Mr. Lee Lowman objecting) the council took the first step.
To see a copy of the proposal click HERE.
March 21, 2017
Today the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on the Hildebran High School Case. The court found that the lower court's decision stands as ruled. However, out of the three judges on the panel, one judge dissented. According to Judge Bryant:
"The trial court’s findings of fact, particularly that Councilman Lowman (1) contacted other council members one-on-one specifically “to avoid holding an official meeting,” and (2) did not contact Councilman Hildebran as he knew he held an adverse position, are clearly based on evidence in the record that the other council members were called “to ensure that they had the vote to amend the agenda, which would allow them to vote on the school building demolition without any prior notice concurring in part and dissenting in part 8 to the public.” Councilman Lowman admitted that he didn’t contact Councilman Hildebran because he knew Hildebran held an adverse position, and if Lowman asked Hildebran about voting to amend the agenda, he would alert the public. The only reasonable inference to be drawn from these facts is that Councilman Lowman’s action of contacting other council members individually was to evade the purpose of the Open Meetings Law. Thus, because the findings by the trial court support a conclusion that Councilman Lowman’s actions were purposeful and undertaken in order to evade the purpose and spirit of the Open Meetings Law and the council’s obligation to conduct meetings in public, I submit the trial court erred in concluding the above-described actions did not amount to a violation. Therefore, I respectfully dissent."
To read the entire court opinion click HERE.
Since one judge dissented in the opinion, HHDA does have the opportunity to appeal to the North Carolin Supreme Court. No decision on the appeal has been made at this time.
October 4, 2016
The North Carolina Court of Appeals head oral arguments today at the Wake Forest School of Law in Winson Salem. Each attorney was given 30 minutes to argue their side and the panel of 3 judges asked questions.
February 22, 2016
It is with sadness in my heart to announce that the Historic Hildebran High School caught fire in the early morning hours. There are just no words to express the sadness felt by the alumni and residents of Hildebran. A picture gallery of the fire has been added to the pictures page. We do not know at this time the fate of our beloved castle. The fire is currently under investigation by the SBI and ATF. Updates will be posted as soon as they become available.
October 14, 2015
The stay was granted. The town cannot do any demolition to the building until the case is closed. The town had asked for a $180,000 bond but the judge ordered NO Bond.
October 1, 2015
The court granted the motion or a temporary stay to be put in place until the appeals court rules on a permanent stay.
September 30, 2015
The appeal was filed!
September 14, 2015
The defendants returned to court today to appear in front of Superior Judge Joseph Crosswhite. The defendant has until October 1, 2015 to file a motion for a stay with the court of appeals. The town has agreed to not demo the building until the court of appeals rules on a stay.
School replica donation box built by HHDA board of director member Bill Gregg.
September 12, 2015
HHDA held a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser at First Baptist Church Hildebran. It was a donations only dinner with some great items on silent auction. We had a great turnout thanks to everyone who volunteered and donated.
July 27, 2015
Regular Town Council meeting was held in the Hildebran auditorium at 7:00 pm. Approximately 90-100 people attended the meeting. Two citizens stood up and spoke about the fine job the Mayor and council are doing - 1 of those is a lifelong friend of the Mayor and the other is the Mayor's daughter. Twelve residents stood and spoke about how the council's decision to demolish the school is dividing our town, discussed the unethical behavior by several council members and Mayor, and some scolded the council for not accepting or even considering the proposal set forth by HHDA as a solution to the school issue.
July 23, 2015
The case continued at 9:30 with the defendant (Town of Hildebran and Foothills Demolition) calling their first witness to the stand. Alice Sander, Hildebran town clerk took the stand and testified as to the process of which public meetings are announced. These meetings are posted on the town's website. Also, published on the site is the agenda for each meeting and that is published approximately 1 week prior to a meeting. She also stated that she is present for the open portion of the meetings and she is the one who prepares the meeting minutes for each meeting and that the open portion of the meetings are recorded. However, the closed session portion of the meetings is NOT recorded and she is NOT allowed to attend. She does do the meeting minutes for the closed session part of the meeting but goes off of the Mayor's notes to produce those meeting minutes.
The defendant's next witness, Hildebran Mayor Virginia ("Jennie") Cook is called to the stand. She is asked whether the school building was discussed in closed session at the October 27, 2015 meeting. She agreed that it was and it was stated so in the closed session meeting minutes. She claimed that the reason it was discussed in closed session was pursuant to General Statute § 143-318.11. Part (a) paragraph (4) which states: "To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations." She stated that she had been in discussion with Burke County Commissioners in discussion about building a combined Town Hall, Library, Welcome Center, and Senior Center on the lot where the old school now stands. She said the county commissioners had told her that they would NOT participate in renovation of the old building for this purpose. Attorney Jason White asked Mrs. Cook, if the county was considered a business or an industry and she said no after several attempts to dance around the question. She also tried to say that because there "may" have been a coffee shop added to the library that it might constitute a business. Attorney Jason White pointed out that the county's plans to build a senior center and library in Hildebran was discussed in OPEN session at the September 22, 2015 meeting as noted in the minutes. Therefore, this was already public knowledge, and did not need to be discussed in a closed session in October.
Mrs. Cook was also asked if she knew about Lee Lowman calling 3 of the other council members to ask them to vote in favor of amending the agenda at the January 26, 2015 meeting. She stated that she did not know that he had called the other members to obtain their vote but she was aware that he had planned on amending the agenda because he called her and told her prior to the meeting. She was asked about the meeting that was held that night and why she didn't move the meeting to the auditorium so that everybody that wished to attend the meeting could have attended. She said because of a law that she has to give a 48 hour notice to move a meeting place, time or date, and that she couldn't move the meeting because it was in a different building (auditorium) than the original meeting place (town chambers). Attorney Jason White pointed out that the town of Hildebran had NEVER had such a high public interest on an issue in the past as the demolition of the old school. After several attempts to avoid this question the Mayor agreed. It was then determined that the public forum held on January 8, 2015 was held in the auditorium because the town anticipated a larger than normal turnout that would exceed the capacity of the council chamber room (capacity 49). When asked why the January 26, 2015 meeting was not originally planned to be in the auditorium the Mayor claimed it was because they did not expect the turnout that showed up although, again, after several attempts to dodge the question, the mayor agreed that the town's interest in the school building issue increased and did NOT decrease after the public forum.
Halfway thru the morning, the judge determined Foothills Recycling contract was legal and would not be voided so Foothills was released from the courtroom.
The agreement between the Town of Hildebran and Burke County Board of Education was introduced as an exhibit. Mayor Cook was asked if she was aware of the agreement and said she was. She was asked to read the part where it explains that if the Town of Hildebran decided to use any part of the complex for any other purposes than a town hall or for educational purposes, the Board of Education is to be given the choice to purchase the facility. Attorney Jason White asked if the Mayor had seen or could produce a written statement by the Burke County Board of Education stating that they had waived their right to purchase the building back after learning that it would be demolished. She said "I haven't seen one."
After the lunch break the judge dismissed the jury and decided to rule on the issues himself. Judge Crosswhite issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, HHDA, stating that the Hildebran Town Council discussed the destruction of the school during a closed meeting Oct. 27, 2014 when it shouldn’t have. Therefore the town council violated the Open Meetings Law. However, he then had to decide if the violation intentionally impaired public knowledge or altered the January 26th vote to demolish the school. He found the meeting law did not contribute to the outcome of the vote and therefore the vote to demolish is still valid.
Judge Crosswhite ordered the injunction barring demolition, voluntarily agreed to by both sides in the spring, will stay in effect to give the plaintiffs time to file an appeal.
July 22, 2015
The case continued at 9:30 am. Rex Lail retook the stand and finished discussing the Contractor's Licensing requirements. The judge explained to the jury that two things were to be taken as fact: 1) Foothills Demolition is NOT a general licensed contractor and 2) Foothills Demolition is not an accredited agency to do asbestos abatement.
After the lunch break, council member, Lee Lowman took the stand at 2:00 pm. Mr. Lowman admitted the school building had been discussed in closed session and stated that it met the law requirement because they discussed constructing a new building containing the town hall, library, senior center, and a concession stand built at the location where the old school currently stands.
Mr. Lowman also admitted that on January 26, 2015 prior to the regularly scheduled town meeting he called 3 of the 4 other council members and the Mayor to let them know that he intended to make a motion to amend the agenda to add the vote on the school building and to make sure he had the other 3 votes for the motion to pass. He also admitted that he did this to keep the public from knowing that the vote was taking place that night. He stated that he did not call the other town council member Wendell Hildebran because "I don't talk to Wendell Hildebran!"
Attorney White asked Mr. Lowman why the January 26, 2015 meeting in which the vote to demolish took place wasn’t held in the auditorium so that everybody that wished to attend could have instead of having some citizens turned away due to the fire capacity of the council chamber room only being 49 persons. His reply was “I don’t have a crystal ball!.” The day ended with the plaintiff (HHDA) resting their case.
July 21, 2015
The case began today at 9:30 am with jury selection which took until the lunch break. At 2:00 pm both sides had opening arguments. It was decided the two main issues of the case would be 1) Did the town violate open meetings law and 2) Did the town follow proper bidding procedures in acquiring the demolition bid from Foothills Recycyling & Demolition. The first witness called to the stand was Johnny Childers, vice-president of HHDA, who discussed HHDA and its purposes and its involvement in trying to save the school building. Then Rex Lail, owner of Lail Builders, was called to the stand to discuss the specifics of a General Contractor's license and the process to acquire such a license.
May 30, 2015
Jeff Rudisill, drag car racer had his car painted with the t-shirt logos to help raise awareness for our cause. Jeff attended the school from 1980-1983 during his Junior High School years. Thanks Jeff!
On June 26, 2015 the Mayor and town attorney agreed to sit down and negotiate on the Hildebran School Lawsuit. A representative of HHDA (Hildebran Heritage & Development Association) and their attorney met with Mayor Cook and Attorney Dill. Mayor Cook stated that she would consider and take to the town council a “reasonable” offer from HHDA on the school issue. HHDA asked if there were specific things they would be looking for in the proposal. They stated that they would want to be paid back $45,000 for what the town has already paid Foothills Recycling and they would want HHDA to assume the $19,000 contract to remove the bats from the entire complex (not just the old school building). They also wanted to ensure the old school building would NOT be used for any residential use such as low income or senior housing nor did they want a restaurant located in the old building. To ensure the building isn’t acquired and then left to deteriorate as it has the last 25 years, the town wanted a timeline of renovation. On July 6, 2015 a proposal was delivered to the town of Hildebran. The proposal met EVERY condition as set for by the town in the prior meeting and then some. HHDA would accept all financial responsibility of the bat removal and pay the town (at least) the $45,000 it had requested. Once the price was paid the old building would be deeded to HHDA with restrictions of specific uses as set forth by the town in the prior meeting. The proposal stated the “possible” uses for the building and gave a detailed timeline for each portion of the building to be renovated. The proposal stated that if any condition or any deadline was NOT met, the old school building would revert back to the town to do as they please with the building regardless of any renovation that had taken place.
This proposal was a win-win situation for both sides. The town “CLAIMED” when the vote was taken to demolish the school that the town couldn’t afford to renovate the building and that the building was a liability. This proposal would have eliminated both liability and financial burden of renovation for the town.
On Saturday, July 11, 2015, the Mayor called each council member into her office except for Wendell Hildebran, and discussed the proposal with them. Wendell, who was not privy to this information called the Mayor the following week asking if a special meeting would be called to vote on the proposal. Her reply was NO.
To read the official proposal, click ------>
March 12, 2015
The Preliminary Junction Hearing was to be heard at 9:30 in Burke County Superior Court. However, the town offered a consent to stop demolition work until the case is heard in court the week of July 20th. HHDA & Citizens United signed the consent.
March 8, 2015
Over 2 dozen citizens united at the school to take place in a "prayer walk." The citizens held hands while Bible Betty prayed and then 7 laps were taken around the entire school. Mayor Jennie Cook was inside Town Hall but did not come out. Channel 3 news was onhand to cover the walk.
February 25, 2015
The Town of Hildebran and Foothills Recycling & Demolition, LLC. volunteerily agreed to a stop order on demolition of the school until the Preliminary Injunction Hearing to be held the week of March 9th.
February 24, 2015
Lawsuit was filed at 4:34 pm by Hildebran Heritage & Development Association, Inc. and Citizens United to Preserve the Old Hildebran School against The Town of Hildebran and Foothills Recycling & Demolition, LLC. (see picture to the left)
April 27, 2015
At the monthly Town Council meeting, Redmond Dill (town attorney) apologized to Council member Wendell Hildebrand for not allowing Wendell to make a motion at the February 23, 2015 meeting. At the time, Dill stated that Wendell could ONLY make a motion to rescind the vote if he had voted in favor of the carrying motion (tearing down the school). According to the town attorney, after researching the law, Wendell should have been allowed to make that motion. Wendell was asked if he would like to make that motion now and he declined after getting the town attorney to clarify that he can still make that motion in the future.
April 26, 2015
HHDA had their first big fundraiser to support our cause of saving our school and heritage. A Pre-season Cruise-in and Pig Pickin' took place at Rex Allen Theater. The weather was cloudy and a little cool but we didn't get rained on. We had a good crowd, some really cool cars, great food, and awesome prizes! We thank everyone who volunteered for this event, donated items, and everyone who came out. We consider this a success! To see more pictures of the event, click HERE!
May 9, 2015
HHDA had a huge yard sale that coincided with the 7-mile long yard sale on Miller Bridge Road in Icard. All the items for the yard sale were donated by Hildebran town residents as well as surrounding Icard township residents and even donations from residents in other counties. The weather was beautiful. This turned out to be another successful fundraiser!
May 30, 2015
HHDA held the District 12 Gospel Jubilee at the Henry River Mill Village - filming site of the Hunger Games located just outside Hildebran town limits. A special thanks to Wade Shepherd for allowing us to use this gorgeous Historic site. A special thanks also to the five bands that played: Brother's Redeemed, The Quick Walkers, Jack Thompson & Friends, Solid Oak, and Shout Out. The weather was perfect and the fellowship was wonderful as always.
February 23, 2015
The regular monthly Town Council Meeting was held at 7:00 in the auditorium. Citizens packed the auditorium. 24 citizens stood up and spoke for saving the school including some recommendations for its future use. The citizens were shown utter disrespect from the Mayor and most of the Council members by rolling of eyes, smirks on faces, doodling, and staring off into space (Click here to read editorials). Councilman Wendell Hildebrand tried to make a motion to rescind the vote to demolish the school. Attorney Dill explained that the motion could not be made since Wendell did NOT vote in favor of demolition at the January 26th meeting. No other council members made a motion to rescind the vote. Channel 3 WBTV news and Hickory Daily Record were present.
Rallying The Troops
The citizens of Hildebran and surrounding Icard Township decided they would NOT be railroaded by the Mayor and/or Town Council. On Saturday, January 31, 2015 many came together for a Rally at the flagpole. Prayers were said, music was played and citizens spoke about their connection to the school. Afterwards, groups of people went out to collect signatures on an "official" petition which was only for the people age 18 or older and live in the Town of Hildebran limits. The next five Saturdays, signatures were gathered on the official petition with a total of 805 signatures gathered to date (March 16th). There are 1,090 registered voters in Hildebran town limits. An online petiton was also started that anyone can sign and give their reasoning that the school should be saved. To date 826 signatures are on this petition (Click here to see the online petition).
SAVE OUR SCHOOL, SAVE OUR HERITAGE signs started popping up in people's yards. T-shirts were made and sold for the cause. Bat Hair Bows and Pins were made with HHS (Hildebran High School) and HJH (Hildebran Junior High) and sold. Cookbooks with 200 recipes from local citizens were compiled and sold. All profits from these sales went to the Hildebran Heritage & Development Association (HHDA) to help pay for the signs and other expenses accrued during the battle.