City goes ahead with music festival
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Party on, Salisbury.
City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with a music festival Aug. 27 and close North Main Street for about 30 hours, despite objections from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The 100 block of North Main, a highway that serves as a detour for Interstate 85, will be closed from midnight Aug. 26 to 6 a.m. Aug. 28 for the event headlined by a Sugarcreek reunion concert. Promoter Mike Miller said he expects between 3,500 and 4,500 people to attend.
“I think it will be a good event for our town,” Councilman Paul Woodson said. “It will bring recognition to Salisbury.”
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he would love to host the event but is worried about liability for the city in case something goes wrong. Mayor Susan Kluttz did not attend the meeting.
N.C. DOT has washed its hands of any liability for the event, should a “negative incident” occur as a result of the road closure, Police Chief Rory Collins told the city.
The state agency opposes the closure because construction of the Yadkin River Bridge increases the chances for a traffic mishap on I-85, which would send vehicles into Salisbury. With Main Street closed for the concert, the city would have to reroute traffic again, putting motorists on two-lane Long Street.
DOT officials also said the estimated time it would take to disassemble the large stage and remove it from the roadway is too long.
But Miller said Tuesday he will have a tractor-trailer standing by to haul away the stage if necessary, cutting the removal time to one hour.
“Should something occur on the interstate where we had to open things up, I feel better hearing that we would be looking at a one-hour delay rather than three hours,” Collins said.
The police department is prepared to protect attendees and manage the event and road closure, he said.
“We can handle it,” Collins said.
While North Main Street is closed, traffic headed south will turn at Kerr Street (trucks) or Council Street (cars).
All traffic coming north will turn at Innes Street.
Councilman Brian Miller questioned whether promoters’ insurance will offer enough protection for the city.
City Attorney Rivers Lawther said any liability would be based on negligence, and he asked Council to make a determination that the city was not creating dangerous conditions with the road closure.
“I doubt his insurance will cover something that happens on public streets away from stage,” Lawther said.
For example, a truck could overturn on Long Street, causing a backup and then a car accident, he said.
City Manager David Treme said a risk exists, “but it is incredibly small.” If an emergency on I-85 sends traffic onto Long Street, the city would have Main Street open within one to two hours, he said.
The chances of an accident on Long Street during that time are remote, Treme said.
Collins said the city has used Long Street as a secondary detour in the past without incident.
Lawther said he will read the promoters’ insurance certificate and advise Council if he sees a problem. Barring none, the event will go on as planned.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell suggested waiting until the next meeting to make a decision, but Miller urged Council to act immediately.
“We need very much to promote where this is happening,” he said.
Miller Davis and 3 Dudes Productions already have held off, waiting for DOT, Miller said.
Promoters moved the festival from the usual Brick Street Live location on Fisher Street to North Main to accommodate more people and a larger stage.
Miller said he’s also received requests from businesses to hold an event on the north side of Innes Street.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.