Leaders of county, school boards to meet privately

  • Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 1:01 a.m.

SALISBURY — The two top officials from both the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will meet in private Thursday morning.

Jim Sides, county commissioner chairman, said Monday that he has scheduled a meeting for 10 a.m. Thursday at the county administration building with Vice Chairman Craig Pierce, School Board Chairman Richard Miller and School Board Vice-Chairwoman Kay Wright Norman.

Sides said discussion of the central office likely will come up. He said wants to focus, though, on how commissioners and the school board can get together in the future and “eliminate a lot of the friction that comes with public meetings where people just don’t seem to be getting along.”

Because there won’t be a majority of either board participating, the meeting is not legally required to be open to the public.

“We can handle a lot of problems behind closed doors,” Sides said. “We can resolve our issues without them having to come out before the public, which I think is the way business ought to be done.”

After Monday’s board meeting, Sides said he’s talking about putting politics, personal feelings and “chest thumping” aside in order to get things done for the people.

Another topic Sides said he will discuss at the meeting Thursday is a request by Richard Miller, the new school board chairman, for “detailed information related to several items” from the county. He didn’t say what information was requested.

Commissioners voted on Dec. 3 to delay discussion of the planned downtown central office for 60 days, allowing the new county and school boards to have time to consider it.

In the meantime, the school board is looking for ways to build the project that will satisfy commissioners and meet their needs.

At a joint meeting last Thursday, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education and the city of Salisbury agreed to pursue an interlocal financing agreement for the project.

The county would finance the $6 million amount it set last year, and the city would help the schools borrow an additional $2 million. The resulting $8 million building would be large enough to fully consolidate the schools’ five administrative offices.

Commissioners were invited to participate in the meeting, but Sides declined to call a special meeting of the county board.

He said the joint meeting should have been called by the county, and he doesn’t think the city of Salisbury is a true stakeholder in the process.

City Manager Doug Paris gave Sides a dictionary as a Christmas gift with an invitation to look up the word “stakeholder,” but Sides said Monday that he returned it.

“I already knew what that word meant,” Sides said. He has also said he doesn’t accept gifts for ethical reasons.

Jon Barber, Chad Mitchell and Pierce all attended the joint meeting, but Mitchell did not participate.

On Monday, Barber gave a brief update to commissioners about the joint meeting and the agreement to work on interlocal joint financing.

“This could be a real game changer for this particular project,” he said.

Barber asked if the board wanted to begin discussions about that possibility now or wait until the 60-day delay is over.

Sides said commissioners instructed the chairman to arrange a meeting with the school board to discuss “how and if” the process would move forward. He said he won’t know until Thursday when that meeting might take place.

Barber then asked if Sides plans to talk about the joint financing option at Thursday’s meeting.

“I certainly don’t intend to bring it up,” Sides said. “I do agree that it could be a game changer for this project.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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