Rowan gets another chance to decide on taking over Wil-Cox Bridge

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Nearly five years after Rowan County agreed to accept ownership of the Wil-Cox Bridge, the state is offering a do-over.
Commissioners will get a chance to decide if they really want the bridge and what the potential costs and liabilities are.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will consider the bridge issue at its meeting at 4 p.m. Monday.
Built at a cost of $190,000 and opened in 1924, the 1,299-foot-long bridge spans the Yadkin River on U.S. 29. One of only six concrete-arch brides in the state, it is also one of only six that has an open support system.
In June 2004, county commissioners in Davidson and Rowan sent letters to the N.C. Department of Transportation saying they would assume ownership of the Wil-Cox Bridge upon completion of the Interstate 85 widening project, including a new interstate bridge over the Yadkin River.
At the time, both counties were actively engaged in planning a regional greenway. Under the plan, the bridge would serve as a pedestrian and equestrian greenway link.
Although officials in both counties said they would accept the bridge, no formal agreement was ever executed.
“Is it still the intent of Rowan County to accept ownership of the Wil-Cox Bridge?” Keith Eason, a state transportation management official asked in an e-mail to county government officials.
Davidson County Planning Director Guy Cornman noted in an e-mail to Rowan officials that a lot has changed since 2004, including changes on both boards of commissioners.
Only one current Rowan commissioner, Chad Mitchell, was serving in 2004.
Cornman suggested a meeting involving Davidson, Rowan and state highway officials. He noted Davidson commissioners want an update on the condition of the bridge, the potential cost of maintenance, and whether the state is still willing to give the counties $1 million for preservation of the bridge.
State officials initially said the bridge would be demolished when the current I-85 widening project is complete. But supporters organized “The Bridge Club” to push a preservation effort.
The name of the bridge was derived from the names of the two highway commissioners in the districts joined by the bridge รณ W.E. Wilkinson, of Charlotte, and Elwood Cox, of High Point.
Other agenda items include:
– A public hearing on a request from Bandy Hardwoods at 735 Ginn Road for a conditional-use permit to add dry kilns, a boiler and additional equipment.
The county approved a permit in 2004, but property owner Andy Frick never agreed to the conditions.
– Changes in the bylaws for the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission that would change the start date for board members and better stagger their terms.
– Discussion of the state homestead tax exemption for seniors. Vice Chairman John Barber is asking commissioners to approve a marketing initiative to inform citizens of the homestead exemption.
Commissioners will also consider approving resolutions seeking to increase the exemption.
– The purchase of two new ambulances at a cost of $126,800 per unit.
– Approval of a fuel provider for the county airport for a term of up to five years.
– The purchase of a track loader for the county landfill, replacing one heavily damaged by a fire last month. The loader was scheduled for replacement.
– Consideration of a settlement with Salisbury Hospitality, owner of the Travel Lodge, for unpaid occupancy taxes.
– Consideration of appointments and resignations from various county boards.
Commissioners will consider filling three seats on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The applicants include Jim Ogg, Jeff Morris, Patricia Gilbert and Celeste Ward. They will also fill a vacancy on the Rowan County Housing Authority. Applicants are Annie Bates, Mac Butner, Nancy Monroe and Donald Sherrill.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners meets at 4 p.m. Monday in the Cohen Administrative Offices Building, 130 W. Innes St.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.