School board to consider three new central office sites
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education agreed Monday to consider three possible sites for a new school system central office — including one on which county commissioners have said they won’t pay to build.
Here’s a rundown of sites presented to the board Monday:
• Ellis Street in Salisbury, where one of the county’s administrative offices is located;
• Long Street in East Spencer, site of the other administrative building;
• U.S. 29 South at Bostian Road in southern Rowan;
• Next to Isenberg Elementary School on Jake Alexander Boulevard;
• Summit Corporate Center off Julian Road;
• Land in the 400 block of South Main Street in downtown Salisbury;
• Property in the 300 block of North Main Street in downtown Salisbury;
• Property in the 500 block of North Main Street in downtown Salisbury;
• The 200 block of West Fisher Street on land owned by the Maxwell Chambers Trust;
• Site of the old Social Services building at West Innes and Old West Innes streets.
The school board asked architect Bill Burgin to gather more information on what it would take to build a central office on a site at Summit Corporate Center or the former location of the county Department of Social Services.
A majority of the board also voted to keep 329 S. Main St. in downtown Salisbury on their list, a site where they had previously voted to put the central office on land donated by the city. Most Rowan commissioners have adamantly opposed that site, saying they don’t have proof that contamination has been adequately cleaned up where a service station once stood.
Last week, commissioners voted to offer five possible sites and a $6 million budget for the central office. The project has been discussed for years to consolidate the school system’s scattered and aging buildings.
Burgin, who designed the central office concept for the city-owned 329 S. Main St. land looked at those properties and more.
Burgin talked about how suitable each property might be for the system’s needs as well as challenges including added costs for water and sewer or road improvements at some and questions about adequate parking for others.
To build the central office where the old Social Services building now stands, Burgin said he might have to redesign the concept he drew up for the Salisbury-owned site on South Main Street. Still, he said, it’s a “pretty good site, architecturally speaking.”
The property is close to downtown and has good exposure, he said. And acquiring another adjacent lot that’s up for sale would provide more flexibility.
“There are certainly ideas there worth exploring if the site is attractive,” he said.
The Summit Corporate Center, which sits just off Interstate 85 at Julian Road, also holds possibilities, Burgin said.
“It certainly can be done out there,” he said. “It’s not a problem from an architectural standpoint.”
County commissioners vice chairman Craig Pierce attended the meeting and said he believed the county could provide a lot on Julian Road, though a Tennessee company has an option on more than 50 acres for possible retail development at Julian and I-85.
Other sites got support from some on the school board but not a majority.
The land beside Isenberg Elementary has been pitched for years as a potential central office site. Board member Susan Cox said she didn’t think the administrative building should be located beside a school, with students, buses and 160 central office employees all coming into the same area.
“We don’t have any other school buildings that have that situation, and I don’t see any reason to start with that now,” she said.
Another site in the 400 block of South Main Street sits diagonally across from the city-owned site the school board had chosen, but it’s privately owned.
“It doesn’t make sense to buy property when we have free property” from the county, board member Chuck Hughes said.
The city-owned property would be free, too, and Salisbury officials say they’ve been given the green light to develop it after the state and city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars removing underground gasoline tanks, hauling out and replacing dirt and installing wells to monitor the quality of groundwater.
The city had agreed to borrow the money to build the central office on that site and enter a lease agreement with the school system but backed out when it appeared the plan would be challenged if it went before the local government commission, which must approve such borrowing.
A local family stepped up to construct the building, but that offer was snubbed, too.
County officials have said they wanted to see a “no further action” letter from the state. Board member Josh Wagner asked about the status of that letter.
“I think the best we have is, any day,” school board Chairman Dr. Richard Miller said.
Wagner said he’s been hearing that answer since he took a seat on the school board in December.
“Let’s be honest. It’s not going to happen,” he said.
Board member Jean Kennedy said nothing is off the table until the school board makes a decision. State law gives the board the authority to choose a site for its central office.
Even so, Wagner said, county commissioners control the money.