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School board: Central office compromise OK

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
EAST SPENCER — Members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education said Monday they’re willing to compromise on the location of the central office building proposed for downtown Salisbury.
And Gene Miller, the district’s superintendent of operations, plans to take that message to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners next month.
“We’re open to their suggestions if they don’t like what we want to do,” school board member Bryce Beard said.
Miller said since November’s school board meeting, he’s met with commissioners Jim Sides and Carl Ford twice to talk about the proposal, which includes a lease/purchase agreement with private developer Bryan Barwick of Barwick & Associates in Charlotte.
During the first meeting, Miller went over the numbers, explaining the financing and the savings the district could incur by consolidating its five administrative offices.
The following week, the two toured the school system’s rundown Long Street office. The 88-year-old building needs an estimated $2 million in upgrades.
Miller said at the time the men seemed convinced the district needs a “safe and consolidated” central office.
“When we got through I said ‘so it looks like you guys are going to support a central office?’” Miller said. “Both said ‘we are going to support you on a building, just not one in downtown.’”
Sides declined to comment Monday evening. Ford could not be reached.
Miller said another option could be the site of the current Ellis Street Administrative Office. He said the district would keep the main building intact and demolish the annex building to make room for the new facility.
Miller said Barwick said the $1.5 million in New Market Tax Credits the district is hoping to obtain with the downtown building would likely apply to the Ellis Street location as well.
“It is a viable option,” Miller said.
Miller said the only roadblock he foresees with the Ellis Street location is that fact that its in the historic district.
“It might be a bit of a struggle to demo that building,” he said.
The school board agreed to listen to other options presented by commissioners, but to only present the downtown proposal during the Jan. 3 meeting.
“It’s now either the time to make it happen or forget about it,” school board member Dr. Richard Miller said. “That’s why I think it’s important to stay the course.”
But the power is in the hands of the Salisbury City Council today.
Gene Miller will go before council to ask the city to donate about one acre of land worth $200,000 in the 300 block of South Main Street. He will also request the city provide a paved parking lot that would about 160 cars.
Miller said if the downtown option isn’t approved, he hopes commissioners will consider another plan.
“If commissioners could put politics aside and come to some consensus on this, we could mount a campaign to get some support,” he said.
Beard agreed.
“Hopefully, they’ll come to the conclusion that they’ll need to work collaboratively with us,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.SalisburyPost

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