Cornerstone out as possible central office location

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Karissa Minn
and Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Pastor Bill Godair on Tuesday pulled Cornerstone Church off the table as a possible site for a school system central office.
In the meeting of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, the pastor said he is officially withdrawing the Cornerstone campus from the list of options for a Rowan-Salisbury Schools administration building.
Earlier Tuesday, Godair asked Salisbury City Council to call off Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., from making comments on the Salisbury Post website about the church. Hemann supports a downtown central office site proposed by the school board.
“Now that we are out of the equation, let me give you some truths, because the Lord knows we’ve heard enough lies and deceits,” Godair told county commissioners. “This has become a circus. It’s embarrassing.”
Commissioners Jim Sides and Carl Ford came to Godair’s office Dec. 15, he said, to ask simply if the Cornerstone campus was still for sale and at what price.
He called Sides and Ford “honorable men” who were trying to do what’s best for Rowan County.
Some months earlier, Godair said, school personnel had made several visits to the campus. He jumped and squealed excitedly at Monday’s meeting to show their reaction.
“They were literally jumping up and down, like, ‘We want this place,’” Godair said. “They turned to Mr. (Gene) Miller and said, ‘We don’t care what you have to do. We want this campus.’”
Earlier this month, Miller, assistant superintendent for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said the property doesn’t have enough space to meet the district’s needs.
He told the Post that with a new 20,000-square-foot building and needed renovations, the total price would rise from $4 million to $8.7 million or $9.7 million.
But on Tuesday, Godair said Miller had told him the system could connect the two Cornerstone buildings and upfit them for $1 million. Added to the church’s sale price, that would bring the total cost to $5 million for “more space than they could ever need.”
Godair urged commissioners not to approve more money than that for a central office.
“You may not be able to tell them where to build, but you can say we’re not giving $9 million for what you can buy for $5 million,” Godair said. “As citizens, we will not forgive.”
Godair said the church board took $1 million off of its original $5 million proposal “just to be kind,” and Cornerstone is not in any financial trouble.
Earlier Tuesday, Godair asked Salisbury City Council to quiet what he considers Hemann’s offensive remarks about Cornerstone Church.
“It’s hard to be a promoter of downtown if the man who is responsible for Downtown Salisbury is on the Internet bashing you,” Godair said.
Since Hemann’s organization receives significant funding from the city, Godair said he was asking City Council to tell Downtown Salisbury Inc. “to cool their jets a little bit.”
Godair said he felt Hemann’s comments on the Salisbury Post website were derogatory, comparing the church to a blue-light special at Kmart.
“That was very offensive to our people,” he said.
Under a Jan. 1 column about the central office debate, another reader posted a comment likening the $1.5 million dollar reduction afforded the downtown proposal by the New Market Tax Credits to a sale at a department store.
“Speaking of department store tricks, the reason Kmart put merchandise on blue-light specials was to get rid of merchandise that they could not otherwise sell,” Hemann wrote in his comment. “Keep that in mind when you examine the building that is really on ‘sale.’ ”
Hemann said Tuesday he did not mean to offend Cornerstone or Godair.
“I am sorry that the leaders of Cornerstone feel that comments that I have made concerning Commissioner Sides and Commissioner Ford’s proposal for a central office on their property were derogatory toward the church,” Hemann said in an email.
Godair said he encourages his 1,200 church members to shop in downtown Salisbury, and he and wife Tina Godair have purchased three houses in Salisbury. The church has opened a satellite campus in the city limits and in 2011 spent an estimated $150,000 at Salisbury businesses, he said.
“We love this town, we really do,” he said.
Godair praised City Council for not participating in the “Cornerstone bashing that has been taking place.”
When Hemann “lashed out” at Cornerstone, members questioned Godair’s support of Salisbury, he said.
“My comments in this regard have been misconstrued as being critical of the church. I am sure that their facility is quite nice,” Hemann said. “… My comments regarding the church facilities were also in no way a reflection on the quality of their leadership or membership. I appreciate the church’s support of the downtown and wish them nothing but the best in their future business endeavors.”
Godair also took issue with Hemann’s discussion of the church’s tax value.
In his online comments, Hemann points out Godair is offering the Cornerstone property for 34 percent above its tax value of $2.2 million.
That value is meaningless because the church pays no property tax, Godair said. A May 2011 appraisal values the Cornerstone land and buildings at $3.3 million, which Godair said is a more accurate figure.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222 or reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.