Council targets crumbling sidewalks
By Emily Ford
A 400-foot stretch of crumbling sidewalk in downtown Salisbury received a lot of attention during the City Council retreat because of the Fortune 500 clients who have stumbled over it.
Integro Technologies, a company at 305 N. Lee Street, provides light-sensing technology used by manufacturers in quality control. During the past two months, visitors to the Integro office have included folks from Merck, PepsiCo, Kimberly Clark, Proctor & Gamble, R.J. Reynolds, Hershey, BMW and eight other big-name corporations.
Integro is in the Railwalk district, considered the city’s business incubator for the new economy.
While visitors to Integro reportedly were impressed when they looked up and saw Salisbury, they were mystified when they looked down and saw the state of affairs under their feet.
“They are walking over sidewalks that are not up to par,” said Randy Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc.
City Council member Brian Miller said he’s concerned Intergro, which can do business anywhere, might leave if the situation continues. The company just added seven new positions with salaries topping $60,000 and is the type of high-tech business Salisbury needs to court, Miller said.
“They are bringing in national companies who are saying wonderful things about our city, except as it relates to the sidewalk in front of the business,” he said.
The city should provide the company with a plan and timetable to fix the sidewalk, Miller said.
Extensive streetscape improvements are planned for North Lee Street, including new sidewalks, light fixtures and tree wells — with a $307,000 price tag.
“I’m sure they would love that, but they just want to walk on the sidewalk without turning their ankle,” Miller said.
City Manager David Treme said staff would consider a short-term solution. City Engineer Dan Mikkelson said $15,000 would buy a fresh concrete sidewalk.
Jobs in the Railwalk district jumped from 30 in 2006 to 72 in 2011, with projections for about 90 more. To date, investment in the district totals $2.75 million with projections for total investment of $7 million to $10 million, Hemann said.
The city already has tackled the worst issue in the area, the overhead power lines, which Hemann called spaghetti on a stick. They have been removed.
While all council members appeared to support a quick fix for Integro’s sidewalk, Mayor Susan Kluttz warned the Council can’t treat one business differently than another.
“We should never focus on one business in downtown,” she said. “The whole area is important.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.