Commissioners OK $491,000 for new emergency communications tower

Rowan County will spend $491,000 to build a new emergency radio communications tower on county-owned land on N.C. 152 in China Grove.

That’s less than half what it would cost to lease space for that purpose on a privately owned tower, and it could generate revenue in the future, county officials said.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday — with Commissioner Jon Barber absent for the vote — to go ahead with the plan.

The 300-foot-tall 911 communications tower, to be built on the site of a Rowan EMS station, will mark the completion of an initiative begun in 2012 to improve emergency communications across the county.

During a courtesy hearing Tuesday, county Telecommunications Director Rob Robinson said an agreement had been reached to lease space on a tower in Kannapolis, but that deal fell through, leaving the county with dead spots in its emergency radio coverage.

The county looked at leasing space on towers owned by two private companies, but doing that for 30 years would end up costing more than $1 million in either location.

Robinson said by building its own tower, the county would have a one-time capital cost and could make money by leasing out space on it.

“We’re going to spend this money, one way or another,” commissioners Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said. “The difference is, we can spend half of it and have our own property that’s going to be a revenue generator, or we can give it to somebody else.”

Mike Zimmerman, chief of the Bostian Heights Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the county’s telecommunications advisory board that endorsed the N.C. 152 site last week, said a tower built there would improve emergency communications for all of Rowan’s first responders.

Commissioner Mike Caskey called the tower “very important for the safety of our firefighters and everyone who uses radios.”

Sean Harrison spoke against the county-owned site, which is next door to his home.

“I know it’s going to save money over time, but I don’t know what this is going to do to my property values,” he said.

In other business, the board approved:

• An operating budget for West End Plaza — the former Salisbury Mall purchased by the county in December for $3.425 million — that anticipates rental revenue of more than $500,000 through June and allows for sewer and partial roof repairs.

• The sale of more than 26 acres of county-owned property to Gildan Yarns for $100. The sale is part of an incentive package the board agreed to last year for Gildan’s planned 500,000-square-foot near its current facility on Heilig Road. The plant will bring 184 jobs in addition to the 200 planned for the current facility.

• The purchase of three service vehicles at a total cost of $69,006. The Facilities Management Department will get a Ford E250 service van; the Environmental Management Department will get a Ford F250 pickup; and the Planning Department will get a Ford Explorer SUV. The county is buying the vehicles from Capital Ford of Wilmington, which is giving the county the same prices it sets in its contract with the state.

• Richard Knox’s conditional use permit to build a 1,152 square-foot residential storage facility in the 300 block of Carlyle Knox Road.

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