Sides denies request to reconsider central office
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — After state officials gave the green light to a school central office site earlier this week, city and school officials hoped to bring county leaders back into the fold.
The hope was short lived.
Rowan County Commission Chairman Jim Sides promptly denied a request Friday to reconsider backing the Rowan-Salisbury School System central office project on South Main Street.
In a joint letter addressed to Sides, School Board Chair Richard Miller and Mayor Paul Woodson asked Sides to reconsider a $6 million commitment to the project that he reversed in February after the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources discovered underground tanks at the proposed site.
“The Rowan County Board of Commissioners has spoken loudly and clearly on this subject,” Sides wrote in an email exchange. “We appreciate that the City of Salisbury has now officially declared their intent as a major stakeholder in this project to borrow $8 million dollars on behalf of the school system to build a downtown central office facility.
“The Board of Commissioners will not be entertaining another vote to re-enter discussions on this issue. No discussions of this topic will be permitted during the school system budget presentation on May 6, 2013.”
But at least one commissioner was willing to talk, emails show.
Commissioner Jon Barber asked fellow administrators to place the item on the May 6 agenda.
“I appreciate and remember this has already been voted on by the Board of Commissioners (February 4th) but the contamination issue has been satisfactorily addressed and our board voted on Monday (April 15th) to title the old DSS building to the EDC or some other nonprofit entity for a business incubator and in our discussion stating we would like for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and City Council to partner with us on this project,” Barber wrote in an email. “Let’s revisit the central office project and consider partnering with Rowan-Salisbury Schools and City Council.”
Commissioners rejected the central office project loan in February, citing a North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources report of several underground tanks and possible groundwater contamination at the site.
The move would force the city — which already said it would put up $2 million for the downtown location — to cover the full $8 million cost.
Neither Miller nor Sides could be reached for comment Friday.
“We are all excited at the good news related to the downtown central office site being cleared for construction by NCDENR and wish the City of Salisbury and the Rowan-Salisbury School System our very best as they move forward with this project,” Sides concluded.
But by answering commissioners’ concerns about the site, officials hoped to re-partner with county leaders.
“The final obstacle cited by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for withdrawing from the joint project is now removed,” the letter reads. “Therefore, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, along with the Salisbury City Council would like to invite the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to partner with us on this project, and we request the reinstatement of the commissioner’s $6 million commitment.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.