School board meets today to talk central office; lawsuit coming?

School board members are meeting Thursday to discuss an offer from county commissioners to take a $6.5 million loan for land parcels in the 500-block of North Main Street. Photo by Nathan Hardin.
School board members are meeting Thursday to discuss an offer from county commissioners to take a $6.5 million loan for land parcels in the 500-block of North Main Street. Photo by Nathan Hardin.

SALISBURY — As the county and school boards probe the prospects of a new Rowan-Salisbury School System central office in the 500 block of North Main Street, architect Bill Burgin said just a few changes would be needed on an existing plan for the structure.

County officials offered the school system a $6.5 million loan Monday to build on that site.

But school board Chairman Dr. Richard Miller said the offer was only a fraction of what county leaders and the school system had agreement on. The school board is meeting with its attorney today to discuss how to respond to the offer.

Burgin, who designed a proposed central office at 329 S. Main Street, said the original plans would need to be rotated and he would have to look at the orientation of the structure’s entrances in relation to the streets and sidewalks.

“I think that site can support the existing plan probably 90 percent,” Burgin said.

Burgin said he doesn’t expect to run into the ground contamination pitfalls that stalled talks for the South Main Street site.

Still, he said he won’t know for sure until a Phase 1 Environmental Services Assessment is completed. But he’s optimistic.

“It doesn’t have a history of environmental issues,” Burgin said.

The property is broken up into three parcels: two owned by J&M Flowers Inc. and another by a local business owner.

The former J&M Flower Shop, and its adjacent structure, would have to be demolished to make room for the building, Burgin said.

In December, Salisbury City Council took the unusual step of voting to demolish the building after the Historic Preservation Commission issued a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition on a vote of 7-1.

The two J&M Flowers Inc. parcels total about $240,000 in value, according to tax records.

The property at 502 N. Main Street is owned by Clay Lindsay Jr., chief executive officer of Summit Developers Inc., and is valued at roughly $79,000. In recent years, Summit Developers has landed a number of construction jobs for the county, including building Rowan’s jail annex in 2012, the county’s Emergency Medical Services station in downtown Salisbury and 30 hangars for the Rowan County airport in 2005.

Burgin first pitched the North Main property as one of 10 options to the school board for their consideration in lieu of the 329 S. Main Street property at a school board meeting on Oct. 28.

Miller, the school board chairman, said the board decided to consider the North Main property because “it’s the next least expensive site.”

Miller said the building and parking would take the entire open parcel. Miller said he doesn’t expect to run into environmental concerns at the property, but also cautioned that a formal report hasn’t been conducted.

He said the board is holding out on any assessments until a funding decision has been reached.

“There’s no need to invest further monies until we know it’s a go,” he said.

Private residents, interested organizations and the city of Salisbury have offered to help cover costs or provide materials, Miller said.

“None of those are finalized until they know where we’re coming from,” he said.

The offer to fund $6.5 million for the central office is the most recent counteroffer in the ongoing mediation talks between the county and school boards.

The most recent request from the school system was for $40 million in capital projects, including a $22 million consolidated elementary school for the Cleveland and Woodleaf communities, the central office and funds for renovations to Knox Middle School.

Previously, Miller has said $6.5 million is not enough to build a new central office and the latest proposal, he said, didn’t allocate funds for the other school projects.

Moreover, Miller repeated his position that the county shouldn’t have a say in the central office location.

“The county commission does not get to dictate the site or the facility,” he said. “That’s most of what the discussion has been about.

“This is about what’s in the best interest of 20,000 kids, their future and the economic future of the county.”

When asked if the school board could decide to take legal action against county commissioners at their called meeting today, Miller said, “We’ll see that in the morning.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246 or Jeanie Groh at 704-797-4222.

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