County ponders way to protect property owners from government
By Jessie Burchette
Rowan County commissioners have delayed action on a proposed policy to protect private property owners from intrusion by government agents without notification or permission of property owners.
While commissioners are in agreement that property rights should be respected, the potential penalty for violators has created an impasse — at least temporarily.
Commissioners discussed a proposed policy Monday night that would require county agents or those receiving funding from the county to get written permission before going on the property for surveys or similar work.
The policy is in part a response to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities sending survey crews onto properties along Town Creek. The county and the city of Salisbury have agreed to share the cost of the estimated $6 million sewer line that will serve the Interstate 85 area to China Grove.
Some property owners have complained they were not notified and never gave permission. In addition, some are claiming damage because of small trees cut on their property.
Commissioner Jim Sides agreed with County Attorney Jay Dees that Salisbury was within its legal authority to go on the property without notification. Sides made clear he didn’t like it, but Salisbury has the authority to do so.
Sides noted that Salisbury has refined its policy and agreed to make sure property owners are contacted in the future. Dees said the utility can easily go to court to seek permission to go on the property if the owner refuses.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain worried aloud about the potential fallout if the county pulled funding from a future project with the city of Salisbury, if the utility violated the policy. The policy provides that the county would terminate funding for failure to adhere to the policy.
“We don’t have water, we don’t have sewer. We have to deal with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities,” Chamberlain said. He speculated that if the city could opt to stop extending water and sewer in the county, “That would stop economic development.”
If enacted, the policy will have no affect on the current $6 million joint city-county Town Creek sewer project.
Commissioner Jon Barber suggested the county take over the notification process, but gained little support
Commissioner Tina Hall suggested building in some type of penalty for failure to carry out notification.
Hall’s proposal drew the interest of Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell who suggested the discussion be delayed until March 19 to give Dees time to look at adding a penalty clause.
The board approved the motion to table, with Sides dissenting. He stressed that the policy is intended to cover other county entities .
In other matters, the board heard information or acted as follows:
* Agreed to cancel the March 5 meeting since County Manager Bill Cowan and Chamberlain will be in Washington attending the National Association of County Commissioners meeting. Instead, the board will lengthen its March 19 meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. instead of the normal 7 p.m. start.
* Approved awarding a contract to Ken-Nect Communications for the technology wiring of Shive Elementary on Holshouser Road.
Jim Christy, assistant superintendent for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said the $116,445 bid was the same the company submitted on Millbridge and Koontz Elementary Schools. Ken-Nect was also had the low bid for technology at Carson High School.
Responding to questions, Christy said the bid includes no hardware, only wiring.
* Approved two watershed waiver requirements for planned buildings on N.C. 152.
Scott Bagshaw of 1430 Rainbow Drive, Kannapolis, plans a 4,800-square-foot office/warehouse near Shinn Farm Road.
Bagshaw’s brother, Harvey Bagshaw of 1450 Rainbow Drive, Kannapolis, plans a 7,000 square foot office/warehouse at 9015 N.C. 152.
* Selected Commissioner Jon Barber to serve as the board’s legislative liaison with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.
* Approved several appointments to various boards and panels including:
— Reappointed Midgie Dial to the Rowan Library Board;
— Appointed Lu H. Gamewell as the out-of-town member of the Faith Planning Board.
— Reappointed Darrell Nicholas to the Agricultural Advisory Board; waived the county’s term limit and reappointed Kim Starnes to the board which has one vacant seat remaining;
–Appointed Philip Roels to the optometrist position on the Board of Health;
— Appointed Bill McLaughlin, Daniel E. Caldwell and Kenneth D. Jones as fire commissioner for the WEst Rowan Volunteer Fire Department. The department provided a list of five candidates. Commissioner Barber nominated McLaughlin, Caldwell and Jones who were unanimously approved.