Commission re-elects Sides to chair, offers schools central office proposal

SALISBURY — Like 2013, next year will see the same Rowan County Board of Commissioners chairman — and a board that won’t budge on a downtown central office.

County leaders voted 4-1 to re-elect Jim Sides as the chairman for 2014. Craig Pierce was also re-elected to the vice chairmanship by the same margin. Commissioner Jon Barber dissented on both votes.

“I’m thrilled that the board has confidence in my doing the job,” Sides said Monday. “I put everything I’ve got into it.”

The county also voted 4-1 to offer the school system $6 million for any central office location other than 329 S. Main St. in Salisbury. They also said the county would pay for some engineering and architectural drawing costs if the schools choose the former DSS building on West Innes Street.

Commissioners kicked off the final scheduled meeting of the year by choosing the board’s chair and vice chair.

Barber quickly nominated Chad Mitchell for chairman, but Mitchell appeared to not want any part of it. He responded by nominating Sides.

Pierce, Sides and Caskey pushed that motion through.

“I think that, for the most part, the leadership team, I think they’ve done a reasonably good job,” Mitchell said after the meeting. “Personally I’m on my way out with this being the last year of my term, down to 11 months to go now. I don’t think it would have been of any benefit to the board to have someone who is off the board in less than a year to be in a leadership position.”

This year was the first that Sides has served as chairman of the board. He is serving his third term, having been on the commission from 1980 to ’84 and 2004 to ’08.

But the year wasn’t without its controversy.

Since he was appointed chairman at the end of 2012, Sides led the charge to overturn an offer to fund the school system’s downtown central office on a site donated by the city of Salisbury.

He also helped push through de-annexation of the Rowan County Airport from Salisbury limits, a measure hotly contested by the city. A bill authored by N.C. Rep. Carl Ford, a former county commissioner, eventually ended the conflict, handing sole taxing authority for the airport to the county.

In the spring, Sides vowed to navigate the board through litigation regarding prayer at meetings, which is still pending, and has fought to defend the board’s stand on funding the local school system. That issue is still being fought via mediation talks.

In the last few months, Sides has continued to draw praise and criticism from residents after he proposed a censure investigation against fellow commissioner Barber and advocated buying the troubled Salisbury Mall for future county departments.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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