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Fibrant tops list of issues City Council is facing

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Managing and implementing Fibrant, the city’s new broadband utility, topped the list of important issues for the City Council during a strategic planning session.
“Some in our community look at our investment in broadband as a negative,” Councilman Brian Miller said Thursday. “For City Council to say that’s our number one priority, we understand how important it is that we get it right.
“We will fulfill the promise we made to do this well and implement it right.”
Council members said they placed Fibrant at the top of the list because of the debt the city took on to launch the fiber-to-the-home network. The city borrowed $33 million to construct the system and will loan Fibrant an estimated $7.5 million from other city funds to cover costs until the utility is self-sufficient.
As City Council members prepare to update Salisbury’s comprehensive plan known as Vision 2020, other priorities they identified include:
• Economic development and jobs
• Strategies for growth, now that cities can’t involuntarily annex neighborhoods
• Changes in housing needs as the population and housing stock age
• Protecting and managing the water supply
• Streamlining the development review process for businesses
Also at Thursday’s retreat, former Gastonia Mayor Jenny Stultz and three high school students from Gastonia talked about the city’s youth advisory board, which helped earn an All-America City Award.
Stultz created the group when teenagers asking for a skate park complained that “nobody ever listens to us.” Stultz said she decided to hear what they have to say.
The board, made up of 32 students from four high schools, helped cut the city’s high school dropout rate by surveying 1,100 students about why they might quit school.
The No. 1 reason: A senior project — required for graduation — that forced students to speak publicly in front of a group.
The fear of public speaking was so strong for some students that they would rather quit school than endure the requirement, the survey revealed.
The youth group took the results to the school board, which eventually withdrew the requirement. The dropout rate improved, Stultz said.
The City Council also heard updates on the West End Transformation Plan and Tourism Master Plan.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
What: Salisbury City Council 27th annual strategic planning retreat
When: Continues at 9:15 a.m. today
Where: Rowan Museum, 202 N. Main St.
Why: Set goals and objectives for the coming year and beyond
Theme: “Evaluating Opportunities,” featuring dozens of helium balloons and posters with a Helen Keller quote: “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
The retreat began with a video featuring former council members Bill Burgin and Pam Hilton Coffield and former Mayor Sonny Allen.

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