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Will Cowan go or stay?

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

Action by Rowan County commissioners on Monday could decide if Bill Cowan stays as county manager for years — or months.

Commissioner Jim Sides has asked for the board to discuss the process to be followed in hiring a county manager.

In his 15 months on the job, he has received high marks from commissioners and county employees. Prior to the election, many of the candidates praised Cowan for his style and performance.

Cowan, who retired as manager in Lee County, came to Rowan in September 2005 following the firing of Tim Russell.

In January, commissioners approved a contract that made Cowan the full-fledged manager.

The contract binds Cowan to serve exclusively as county manager until Dec. 31. But the contract is open-ended, providing for an automatic extension for an additional two years if written notice is not given 120 days prior to the termination date.

The contract also provides that Cowan or the county can end the contract by giving 120 days notice without any additional obligations.

Technically, the county is contracting with a company, William K. Cowan.

Cowan has indicated to commissioners that he would be willing to continue to serve as manager and negotiate a new contract, dropping the company scenario.

Earlier this year, commissioners briefly discussed conducting a search for a manager, but then opted to wait until after the election and new commissioners were seated.

Some commissioners on the current board appear to favor giving Cowan a long-term contract. Others apparently favor going through an extended search process.

Sides, who voted against Cowan’s current contract, has objected to several provisions of the contract including the salary as well as sick leave and vacation time.

Cowan receives $151,000 plus $600 a month for car allowance.

The discussion of hiring a manager is one of the last items on the Monday night agenda, which is expected to take several hours.

Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said if the meeting goes more than four hours it may be recessed until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Other items on the agenda include:

* Randy Harrell, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, will discuss an incentive request from a new company considering locating in the county.

* The board will conduct a public hearing on enacting a six-month moratorium on designating any properties as historic landmarks.

* Sam Leder of Potter & Co. will present the audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30.

* Consider a contract with SunGard HTE Inc. for hardware involved in the upgrade of the telecommunications and record management system for the jail and the sheriff’s department. The cost is $367,800.

* Receive an update on efforts to provide sewer service to two lots in the county-owned Speedway Business Park.

According to information provided commissioners, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities has refused to accept the planned design of the system. Initially, the project was estimated to cost $60,000. Salisbury-Rowan Utilities has estimated the cost at $180,000.

* Consider awarding a contract to Blythe Construction to prepare an area at the airport for additional corporate hangars.

n Discuss the county personnel board.

* Establish a date, time and place of the annual planing retreat.

In addition newly-elected Commissioner Jon Barber has has asked for discussion on several topics include land use, farm land value, budgeting, strategic planning and other issues.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Meeting Room, County Administrative Services Building, 130 W. Innes St.

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