Residents ask Granite Quarry to take a stand on jail annex

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY ó A pair of Granite Quarry citizens adamantly opposed to a county jail annex at Faith and Heilig roads pushed the town board Monday night to take a stand on the issue.
“I would like a commitment tonight,” Dave Lannon told the board. “… A lot of citizens out here are concerned about this.”
Lannon and Brian Humphreys have been circulating petitions throughout Granite Quarry asking for signatures against a jail annex on 84 acres of county-owned property at the intersection, which is on the edge of the town’s extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction.
“I haven’t found anyone, in my walking around neighborhoods, who is for this,” Humphreys said Monday night.
Both men also spoke against the possibility of a satellite jail’s being built at the intersection during a Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ meeting Oct. 19 in Salisbury.
Rowan County Manager Gary Page has said the Faith/Heilig Road site is one of three or four county properties under consideration for a jail annex.
Because of jail overcrowding and state pressure to alleviate it, the county wants to build a 25,000-square-foot, dormitory-style facility that will house 160 inmates. It would be in addition to the downtown Salisbury detention center.
Other county-owned sites under consideration include a 10-acre tract off Airport Road on National Guard Road. Another 25-acre tract on the south side of Julian Road is on land currently used for fairgrounds parking.
Page has emphasized that no site has been chosen.
Today, Rowan Countians are voting for or against a quarter-cent local sales tax increase aimed at raising $2 million annually over 10 years to pay for a $6 million jail annex and a $12 million conversion of the county’s public service, emergency radios from analog to digital by 2013.
Lannon and Humphreys have started a Facebook group against the jail annex’s being located at Faith and Heilig roads. It has 215 members and is growing daily, Lannon said.
Humphreys, a Granite Commons resident, expressed concern that a jail annex or some other county operation could be expanded on the site, which is now served only by “two country roads.”
The intersection doesn’t have a traffic light, and the county would find itself having to condemn private property to widen the roads, Humphreys predicted. It would affect both Granite Quarry and rural Rowan County property owners, he added.
Mayor Mary Ponds said the town board generally doesn’t act on things brought up during the regularly scheduled public comment period. But she welcomed the men’s comments and assured them there was support at Town Hall for their position.
Granite Quarry residents are joining other registered voters in Rowan County today in deciding on the quarter-cent sales tax referendum. The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen does not have a contested race this year. Incumbent Aldermen Eloise Peeler and Brad Kluttz are on the ballot unopposed.
As for the sales tax proposal, Ponds described it as “an either or ó either the quarter-cent sales tax” or a county property tax increase.
“Which one would you rather have?” she said, favoring the local sales tax increase.
In other business Monday, the board approved an agreement in which the town would take over the American Legion property on Legion Street behind Civic Park.
American Legion Post No. 448 agrees to convey its property to the town. Meanwhile, the town grants the post use of the building’s basement, and members also will have access to the upstairs up to 12 times a year.
Town officials and Legion officials have looked on the agreement as a win-win situation. The town will be able to preserve and use the building for future generations, while the post still has a meeting place for its members.
All personal property in the building remains the property and responsibility of the Legion post.
The town will now pay the building’s gas, water and electric costs, while the Legion post will be responsible for any damage caused by members and guests and for any use resulting in extra utility bills or higher insurance premiums.
The town and post officials agreed that signs would be erected recognizing the American Legion’s contributions to the town. The Legion post will pay for the signs, which will remain as long as the post is active.