'A disaster waiting to happen'

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

SPENCER — The lack of sidewalks around North Rowan Elementary, Middle and High schools is a dangerous and ongoing problem, according to Spencer Mayor Alicia Bean.

Bean introduced the topic at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, saying, “What do we have to do to get some sidewalks around those schools?”

Does someone have to be hit or killed before something is done? Bean asked.

“It is a disaster waiting to happen,” she said.

Dick Paestella, town superintendent, said all schools in Spencer are on state roads and “it’s not just putting sidewalks in.”

The state would also have to install curbs and guttering and in the past the state hasn’t had the money to do that, he said.

Paestella pointed out that he’s been working for the town for nine years and he’s worked on the problem every year. The problem has been a constant battle with the state, he said.

“It’s going to take some phone calls to the right people,” Paestella told board members.

Bean briefly explored the possibility of having police officers at corners during the busiest school times. After thinking for a second, she said that would be impossible because Spencer doesn’t have enough police officers on duty at once to handle the situation.

Bean looked to Police Chief Robert Bennett for support. He said he was well aware of the problem. If you watch the Oakwood Street curve during busy school times for a week, “You’d be scared to let any of your children walk through there,” he said.

Bean asked other board members for suggestions on the problem.

Alderman C.E. Spear said he felt the first contact would be the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.

Board members decided it would be best to first contact either Karen South Carpenter — the North district representative — or Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom.

Bean suggested asking Grissom to come and view the problem with the Police Department pointing out trouble spots.

“I’m sure Dr. Grissom would come down here,” Bean said.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting:

* Aldermen heard a report on the recent town audit for the fiscal year ending in June of 2006 from Eddie Carrick, Allred and Carrick CPAs.

“You received an unmodified, clean opinion this past year,” Carrick told board members.

Spencer spent $300,000 in Powell Bill funds for road improvements but increased net assets by $225,000 as a result of those improvements.

Actual revenues are up by $156,000 as well over the past year and expenditures were $146,000 lower than the previous year — the Powell Bill funds not included.

“You had a very good year this past year,” Carrick said.

Bean asked how Spencer compares to other municipalities in the area.

Carrick said it was hard to compare apples to oranges, but the Local Government Council recommends towns having 8 percent or a month’s surplus at all times. Carrick generally recommends 20 percent and Spencer had a 27 percent surplus last year.

“You’re probably not going to be getting any letters from the local government council anytime soon,” he said.

Bean pointed out that the good report came without raising taxes.

* Steve Waddell, member of the Spencer Business Alliance, said the group was still collecting toys for children in the North Rowan area. He said he’d recently received a call from Food Lion officials asking to partner with the Business Alliance on the toy drive. Most who attend the Spencer Cruise-In have already donated, but Waddell said he hasn’t seen many Spencer residents donate.

He pointed out again that the toys would go only to children in the North Rowan school district — not the entire county.

Toys can be donated at Waddell’s business, Two Worlds Apart, on the corner of Fourth Street and Salisbury Avenue.

* Mayor Pro Tem Randy Gettys asked about the status of the High Rock Raceway application.

“That’s a recurring question,” said Land Manager Dustin Wilson.

He said the property owners haven’t submitted a new application.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com