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Editorial: Joint cause, joint project

Salisbury City Council’s approval Tuesday of an occupancy tax that Rowan County Commissioners had earlier rebuffed highlights one of the differences between the two boards. But the council also OK’d a revenue bond that will benefit a project on which the city and county are working together ó a sewer line down the I-85 corridor between Salisbury and China Grove.
The council approved a $6 million revenue bond to divide between two projects. The bigger portion, $3.2 million, will go toward extending city services to a 429-acre area on Harrison Road the city annexed in 2007. The other $2.8 million will go toward the sewer line, which is under construction.
The city and county agreed in 2005 to fund the sewer line together, inking the deal the following year ó all in the name of economic development. The sewer line pairs with the relatively new southern Rowan water line to give that potential growth corridor full utility service. It also will provide sewer service to the Peach Orchard Road, Peeler Road, Webb Road and N.C. 152 interchanges, and it will tie into China Grove’s system. Where water-sewer service goes, the tax base usually grows, and that’s something both the city and the county need. The county needs the tax base; the city needs water customers.
Most of all, people in the region need jobs. This line opens up a substantial area where new business and industry could build and create more jobs.
In 2005, City Manager David Treme showed commissioners and council a map reflecting more than 100 undeveloped and under-developed properties along I-85 that could benefit from the sewer line. Each parcel was more than 10 acres in size and had less than $50,000 tax value on improvements.
Not much has changed physically since then, thanks to the recession. This might not seem to be a good time to take on more debt, but the slow economy is a plus when it comes to bidding out a big project. Bids on the line fell within the cost estimate generated nearly five years ago ó $6.5 million. That includes extras which might have been out of reach in more prosperous times, like boring under I-85 to lay the groundwork for future line extensions on the other side of the interstate.
All this comes at a price, of course. The city’s water-sewer fund already had about $49 million in debt. The new bonds will call for $550,000 a year in debt service, starting with the next fiscal year, according to John Sofley, the city’s management services director. He predicts only a minor impact on water and sewer rates, if any, depending on how the economy goes.
Let’s hope it goes better soon. The county and the city were being proactive and looking at longterm solutions when they approved the new sewer line. When growth does come to that corridor, it will be because the county and the city invested in Rowan’s future ó together.

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