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County lays out options for new RSS offices

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Two proposals are now on the table for a new administrative office for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
Both involve buying the former Winn-Dixie building on Jake Alexander Boulevard and would cost either $6.5 million or $9 million.
A committee of school board members and county commissioners held its second meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at figures and the two options laid out by County Manager Gary Page.
The first option includes buying the building, renovating the 42,600 square feet of existing space and building a two-story, 16,000-square-foot addition in the front. Along with architectural fees, furnishings and a contingency fund, the total cost is estimated at $9 million.
The second option would leave off the two-story addition with a projected price tag of $6.5 million.
While school officials agreed they are willing to look at the option giving them less space, all said they prefer the 58,000-square-foot plan.
Page’s plan also included an added cost to the schools, requiring the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to ante up more than $1 million ó $750,000 cash and $300,000 from the sale of the Ellis Street administrative offices.
School officials, including school board Chairman Jim Emerson and board member Karen Carpenter, said the additional payment is not a deal breaker.
Under the revised plan, the county would still split the debt payment 50-50 with the school system. Under the option resulting in more space, the county and school system would make annual payments of $380,000 each. Under the second option, the payments would be $261,000 apiece.
Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, promised to take the proposals to his board at the Oct. 6 meeting and seek the go-ahead to have an architect do a sketch to determine if the school system’s 155 administrative employees can be accommodated in the existing building without an addition.
Commissioner Jim Sides, who also serves on the committee, will provide his options at the Oct. 6 meeting.
Chamberlain and Sides differed on the proposals.
Sides said the whole discussion has gotten out of hand.
“I thought this was a safety issue,” he said, referring to the Long Street office, one of four sites where school system administrative employees work. The Long Street office was originally East Spencer High School.
Sides said that while he isn’t totally opposed to the idea of consolidation, he doesn’t think now is the time to borrow and spend $8 million. Instead, he suggested a third option ó repairing the Long Street building and possibly adding some storage space in a new building.
Sides suggested it would be a better deal to spend $3 million on repairs that would allow the school system to use the Long Street offices at least 10 more years and deal with the consolidation issue later.
“We’ve got serious economic problems, we need to be very conservative,” Sides said.
School system officials disagreed.
Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations, cited the opinion of an engineer who said the best way to deal with the structural problems at Long Street would be to gut the inside and rebuild.
Emerson, the school board chairman, said after spending $2 million to $3 million on the Long Street building, the system will still have an 80-year-old building.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said consolidation of administrators is important, citing the potential for savings in money and time.
Chamberlain also spoke out for going forward with consolidation, acknowledging that Sides and Commissioner Tiny Hall will likely disagree with him.
But Chamberlain said the other members of the board, Chad Mitchell and Jon Barber, may differ from Sides and Hall. That drew a laugh from Emerson.
Mitchell and Barber are teachers who work for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
Hall, along with candidates Raymond Coltrain and Carl Ford, attended the session.

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