Heilig Road jail site off list

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Heilig Road residents who don’t want a jail in their neighborhood may have an early Christmas present.
A county committee working on the design and site selection for a $6 million jail annex agreed this afternoon to move the Heilig Road, Julian Road and Airport Road sites to the back burner.
Two dozen or more Heilig Road area residents squeezed into a small meeting room at the Cohen Administrative Offices Building in Salisbury to hear the committee’s discussion.
Residents have loudly opposed the jail and presented the county a petition in opposition.
They left with smiles, some thanking county officials for listening and having an open site selection process.
A new site on Henderson Grove Church Road is now the preferred location.
Committee members agreed that barring some “extreme problem” with the Henderson Grove site or other property that may be considered, Heilig, Julian Road and Airport Road sites are off the table.
The new site is actually two parcels owned by John Leatherman, a local businessman. The two angular parcels total 54 acres, extending from U.S. 29 on the north side of Henderson Grove Church Road, backing up to the Town Creek area, where a major sewer connector is being installed.
Under the proposal offered by County Manager Gary Page, the county would swap or buy the Leatherman property.
Page said Leatherman has indicated a willingness to swap his parcels with the county for the 84 acre county-owned tract on Heilig Road.
Page noted that currently there was no opposition to the site, adding that once it hits the newspaper, that may change.
While citing several other pluses for the Leatherman property, Page said it will require a bore under the railroad tracks to extend water from U.S. 29 to the property. That takes a minimum of 90 days to get approval from Norfolk Southern.
Architects said the 90-day requirement would make a very tight timeline; the project is set to go to bid in June.
Chad Mitchell, vice chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, suggested getting Salisbury-Rowan Utilities involved and starting the process.
Mitchell and Commissioner Raymond Coltrain also agreed to a suggestion by Page to advertise for potential jail sites.
Page suggested, to be fair to other property owners, the county should look at other properties that meet the criteria รณ a minimum of 25 acres within 3 miles of the Rowan County Justice Center that has water and sewer on site or close by.
And property owners who have sites that qualify may be asked to help defray costs of environmental analysis and other expenses associated with a possible sale.
Leatherman will be requested to share the cost of appraisal and environmental studies on his properties.
Mitchell asked Page to have information and recommendations related to the Henderson Grove Church Road sites and other sites that might come up prepared for the Jan. 4 meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners could then decide to approve environmental studies and negotiate swapping or buying the Leatherman property.
Coltrain said buying it should be a last resort, urging a property swap.
Mitchell added a bit of caution to the Heilig Road area residents, saying if the county swaps its property, the county won’t have any control over its future development.
The Jail Annex Committee includes Chief Deputy Kevin Auten, Finance Director Leslie Heidrick, Page, Coltrain and Mitchell.