County commissioners delay discussion on consolidated 911 services

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — County commissioners decided to wait until 11 a.m. today to consider an agreement with the city of Salisbury to consolidate 911 services.
On Monday, Commissioner Jim Sides and Vice Chair Carl Ford said they would like more time to look over the proposed contract. The delay passed by a 3-2 vote, and the meeting of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners was recessed overnight.
A negotiated agreement between the county and city calls for consolidation of all 911 services with the county by July 2013. All services would be located within the county’s new 911 center.
The city would transfer the responsibility of telecommunications, 10 employees, equipment, maintenance and the overhead expenses to maintain a 911 center to the county. As support for the consolidated 911 services, the city would pay Rowan County an annual payment of $50,000 per year for 10 years, totaling $500,000.
After the meeting, Ford said he has “unanswered questions” about the contract and wanted to ask county staff members about it.
Sides said after the meeting that he has “problems with the city telling us what to do.” The proposed contract sets standards for the quality of services that 911 staff members provide.
In a phone interview, Salisbury City Manager Doug Paris said the first draft of the contract actually was created by Rob Robinson, telecommunications director. The city just wants to make sure the level of service doesn’t go down due to consolidation, Paris said.
“The standards there are actually what the county is doing already,” he said.
At first, the talks got quite heated, as Salisbury resisted the county’s moves toward consolidation.
But “that chapter is closed,” Paris said, and the city is happy with the agreement because it addresses its concerns. He said Salisbury is trying to move forward quickly “as a courtesy” so the county will have time to apply for grant funding before the April 30 deadline.
A state consolidation grant would give the county access to $700,000 to pay for backup 911 center equipment. When added to the city’s offer, the county stands to receive $1.2 million for taking on Salisbury’s telecommunications services.
The board will continue its meeting at 11 a.m. today on the second floor of the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Rowan County Administration Building.
Commissioners Jon Barber and Raymond Coltrain voted against the delay, saying they wanted to go ahead with the discussion that evening.
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Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution to “encourage” the N.C. General Assembly to reinstate funding to the N.C. Transportation Museum.
They voted to change the wording from “strongly urge and encourage” after Ford and Sides raised concerns.
“We sit here every year — rightly so — and tell the state we don’t want them sending us any more unfunded mandates,” said Ford, who is running for a seat in the state House this year. “So I don’t want to turn around and send them a letter telling them to re-fund the transportation museum.”
Sides agreed, saying the state decided that ending funding to the transportation museum was something they needed to do to balance the budget.
“I am not going to vote to tell them to put that money back in the budget, because if they do, the money’s got to come from somewhere,” he said.
Commissioner Jon Barber said he thinks the state has plenty of places where it can cut.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain added that he doesn’t think the resolution is comparable to the way the state requires counties to make certain expenses.
“All we’re doing is encouraging the General Assembly to reinstate, to some degree, a level of support for this very important entity in our community,” Coltrain said.
Chairman Chad Mitchell suggested rewording the document to show an understanding of the state’s budget constraints. While both Sides and Ford said they still had reservations, they joined in a unanimous vote for the resolution.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Facebook: Karissa.SalisburyPost

In other business
Rowan County Commissioners also:
• Approved an N.C. Catalyst Program application for Grateful Heart Ministries, a nonprofit located at 706 Dunns Mountain Road in Granite Quarry. According to planning staff, the group provides food, clothing, furniture and limited counseling to Rowan County families in need.
Grateful Heart Ministries is applying for $500,000 in state grant funding to purchase property and construct a new 50-foot-by-130-foot facility to expand its food mission, provide space for food and clothing distribution and create a workshop and counseling space.
• Delayed accepting a high bid of $35,474.75 for surplus property off Amity Hill Road. The county originally was given an assessed value of $47,736 for the vacant property, but current tax records show a value closer to $70,000, commissioners said.
• Approved conditional use permit amendment changing the operating hours for Buckshots, allowing the live music venue and bar to open on Mondays and Tuesdays and an hour earlier on Fridays. Owners said this is to accommodate pool leagues that want to meet in the game room.
• Approved rezoning of 2.66 acres on N.C. 152 near the Iredell County line from rural agricultural to neighborhood business, along with a special non-residential intensity allocation permit.
• Approved a special non-residential intensity allocation permit for Corriher Heights Baptist Church.
• Approved a permit to exceed noise ordinance standards for the Rowan County Relay for Life event at the county fairgrounds on May 4 and 5.
• Approved JP+A Architect to design the renovation project at the health department Smile Center.
• Authorized environmental management to apply for a $8,185.50 pesticide container recycling grant.
• Approved several budget amendments.