State delegation wants to hear from all towns

  • Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:51 a.m.

SALISBURY — To prevent the appearance of granting the city of Salisbury an exclusive audience with state legislators, N.C. Rep. Carl Ford has invited all elected officials from Rowan County towns to a meeting at 1 p.m. Friday.

That makes three meetings on Friday for the state delegation:

• The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative breakfast. State legislators will meet with business leaders and others at 7:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn.

• The airport de-annexation meeting. At Salisbury’s request, legislators will meet with City Council at 10:30 a.m. in City Hall to hear the city’s pitch for keeping the airport in the city limits.

Rowan County commissioners, who are also invited to the meeting, want legislators to de-annex the airport.

• The additional meeting 1 p.m. in the County Administration Building. Legislators welcome all local elected officials to talk about legislative priorities.

After agreeing last month to meet with the city about the airport, Ford said he heard from leaders in five Rowan County towns complaining that they too have issues to discuss with the state delegation.

“Since Salisbury has made its request, I have received requests from other officials about items of regional legislative priorities including extraterritorial jurisdiction allowances, a new I-85 interchange in southern Rowan County and one issue of how the region’s economic development could be enhanced with some regional legislation related to fairness in utility allocations,” Ford said in a press release. “These and other issues merit being heard.”

Ford said local elected officials should bring their questions on a notecard to the legislative breakfast Friday morning, and the delegation will prioritize them for discussion at the 1 p.m. meeting.

“This meeting is to discuss local legislative issues and will be open not only to Salisbury City Council, but also to the Rowan County commissioners and all elected officials from the Rowan County municipalities …” Ford said. “We are inviting all municipalities to participate so that equal opportunity is offered to all officials.”

All members of the state delegation are scheduled to attend.

Ford sent the press release announcing the meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Jeff Morris, an attorney and Spencer alderman who asked Ford to hold the meeting, said the press release fulfills the requirement of the state’s open meetings law, which says public bodies must give 48 hours notice before a meeting.

But City Manager Doug Paris said he was concerned that Salisbury City Council and other town boards did not have time to issue their own public notice.

Proper notice is also needed to allow time for members of the public to plan to attend and watch public business be conducted, Paris said.

Rowan County commission Chairman Jim Sides, who spoke recently at a panel discussion on open government in Raleigh, seemed to share a similar concern.

“Since this meeting cannot be noticed to the public to give the 48-hour required notice, I will decline to attend so that other commissioners may,” Sides wrote in an email. “However, if there will not be a majority of commissioners in attendance, I may show up as I will be in the office that afternoon.”

Whether Friday’s meeting constitutes a public meeting as defined by state law will depend on who shows up, said Amanda Martin, attorney for the N.C. Press Association.

If no majority of any public body attends, the meeting would not be subject to the open meetings law, Martin said.

However, if a majority does show up, Martin said she believes it would be an official meeting and the press release from Ford would not be sufficient notice.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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