School central office meeting set for Thursday
EAST SPENCER — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the administrative building at 110 S. Long St. in East Spencer to discuss the proposed school central office.
The school board invited both Salisbury City Council and Rowan County Board of Commissioners to the meeting, but new commission Chairman Jim Sides did not call a special meeting to join the discussion.
City Council did call a special meeting, and council members are expected to attend.
The school board’s agenda for the meeting, which was published Monday, says, “This is a joint meeting with the Board of County Commission and the Salisbury City Council.”
The agenda includes:
• Discussion of the current status of the central office project from all stakeholders’ perspectives
• Desired future status of the project from all stakeholders’ perspectives
• Discussion of strategies on how to move forward
• Comments from superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom
Earlier this month, Sides told new school board Chairman Richard Miller in an email that he would not call a special meeting because he disapproved of Miller’s comments about the commission. Sides also said he does not consider City Council to be a stakeholder in the central office project.
The city is donating parking and land and cleaning up environmental contamination at the proposed downtown site for the building.
“Even without a special meeting, any of the commissioners may attend your meeting, as long as there is not a majority present to participate in the discussions with your board,” Sides wrote to Miller.
Sides referred to Miller’s recent statement, reported in the Post, about the county’s fund balance and commissioners’ ability to fund the $6 million to $8 million building project without a loan.
“I take this as a very irresponsible statement on your part,” Sides wrote to Miller, adding that the state mandates all counties have a fund balance and Rowan has worked hard to keep its healthy. “Rest assured, Rowan County will not be writing the School Board a check for either of the amounts you referenced and thereby depleting its fund balance to an unacceptable level.”
The school board submitted its final plans for the central office to Rowan County on Dec. 3, asking commissioners to request permission from the Local Government Commission to borrow $6 million on the school board’s behalf. But commissioners voted 3-2 to delay a decision for 60 days, with Commissioners Jon Barber and Chad Mitchell in disagreement.
Sides said a majority of the commission wanted to meet with only the school board, with no “outside influence and interference from any other parties.”
He said he considers Salisbury city government, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and downtown business owners to be “special interest groups,” not stakeholders. The school and county boards are the only stakeholders in locating an administrative office, he said, as defined by the state legislature.
Miller and Salisbury City Manager Doug Paris said Salisbury is a stakeholder due to the location of the proposed building in the 300 block of South Main Street and the city’s investment of time and money. The land and parking are each worth $250,000, Paris said.
Paris said he gave Sides a gift-wrapped dictionary for Christmas so the chairman would know the definition of “stakeholder.”
Earlier this month, Barber told the Post he plans to attend the special meeting but won’t join the discussion.
“I will attend the Jan. 3 meeting, listen to the solution that is discussed and developed by the Board of Education and City Council, and will take this solution back for consideration and approval by the County Commission at our Jan. 7 meeting,” Barber wrote in an email.
Commissioner Mike Caskey said he agreed with Sides’ decision not to call a special meeting. It’s up to the other commissioners to choose whether they want to participate in the meeting, he said.
“I don’t mind talking to Salisbury, but I think we need to talk to the school board first,” Caskey said. “The school board and commissioners are the only ones statutorially that have to make that decision.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.