Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
County commissioners may be getting a raise of sorts if the proposed budget is adopted unchanged.
The raise will come in the form of new leather chairs at a cost of nearly $1,000 each.
A budget item calls for spending $8,500 to buy nine all leather chairs for the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Meeting Room.
The chairs would provide seating for the five commissioners, the clerk to the board, finance director, county manager and county attorney.
The chairs would replace nine red cloth-covered chairs, which have apparently been in use almost 30 years.
Commissioners already have agreed to spend nearly $100,000 to upfit the meeting room with a large screen that drops down from the ceiling, new audio system with lapel microphones and video monitors at the commissioners seats.
The upfitting also includes audio and video equipment to record the board meetings for cable TV and Webcasting.
Whether they’ll be in impressive leather chairs or the familiar red ones is undecided.
Ken Deal, the county’s director of administration, said the current chairs have been around as long as he can remember. He’s been with the county 21 years.
And the chairs have been reworked, including new foam, from time to time.
“They’ve served well,” Deal said.
Commissioner Jim Sides, who also served a term in the 1980s, said they appear to be the same chairs.
While the chairs look good, commissioners and others who have spent hours in the chairs have complained they are not very comfortable.
They aren’t very comfortable, Sides said, but he’s more uncomfortable with the notion of spending nearly $1,000 a piece for new chairs.
“That took me aback. I can’t imagine a chair that costs that kind of money,” Sides said. The chair he uses at his business, Today’s Trading, cost $79 and is very comfortable, he said.
Sides and Commissioner Tina Hall called for cutting the $8,500 for the chairs from the 2008 budget, which totals $121.5 million.
They appeared to get some support for the cut. Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell said he isn’t entirely sold on the new chairs.
If the county opts to go with new chairs, there’s a buyer waiting.
Mac Butner, who has run unsuccessfully for various political offices, is a fan.
Butner has logged a lot of hours sunk in the deep foam cushions while serving multiple terms on the Rowan County Planning Board.
Butner said he thinks the chairs are great, and he would like to buy one to use in his business Realty One.
If the chairs are replaced, Deal said they will be put in the county warehouse where any department can claim them for use.
If no other department claims them, the chairs could be sold at the annual surplus auction next summer.
Commissioners will apparently decide later this month if they’ll get a raise in salary.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain reminded commissioners Thursday the recommended 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase will not be automatic for commissioners. Commissioners must vote on whether to extend the raise to themselves.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or