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County pulls staffing, support for Rowan Salisbury Human Relations Council

SALISBURY — Commissioners passed a resolution to withdraw staffing and appointment support for the Salisbury Rowan Human Relations Council on Monday.
The resolution, which originally asked to remove funding, was later clarified to say the funding would be given to the council, but through a direct payment solely for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. The measure passed 3 to 1.
The Human Relations Council is also responsible for organizing community outreach events like, Let’s Get Connected Day, La Fiesta de Rowan and the Meet Your Neighbor Forums.
But the county has slowly pulled away from the organization in recent years, said Maggie Blackwell, city liaison to the organization.
“They have not had a county representative for almost two years now,” Blackwell said. “They did not communicate with us — they just haven’t been showing up.”
The resolution was pulled off the consent agenda Monday night after a motion by Commissioner Jon Barber, who later voted to continue a partnership and asked for continued funding for the group.
Commissioners Craig Pierce, Mike Caskey and Chairman Jim Sides voted in favor of the resolution.
Still, the measure had some questions even among supporters.
Pierce asked fellow commissioners why the resolution included cutting the already-earmarked $3,150 in funding for the MLK Jr. breakfast if the board was set to continue paying the amount.
“We are no longer funding them as a part of the Human Relations Council,” Sides responded, “we are funding the breakfast.”
Following the meeting, Pierce said the organization represents only a segment of the county’s residents.
“We don’t feel like, in our opinion, we don’t feel it represents all of the citizens of Rowan County,” Pierce said.
Pierce also said he’s glad the county is continuing to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by funding the breakfast.
“We’re just stepping back and letting them kind of manage themselves,” he said of the HRC. “We’re going to continue the funding that we have. We’re just going to do it through the breakfast to make sure those dollars end up at the breakfast and not other places.”
Minimal dialogue between the two groups, Pierce said, led to the staffing and member appointment disconnect.
Three years ago, organizers for Salisbury’s first Pride event said the county threatened to pull HRC’s funding if they backed the festival.
The local chapter of PFLAG — Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — stepped into host the event. Salisbury Pride, Inc. now organizes the gathering.
Pierce said the former discussions had nothing to do with the resolution’s intent.
But the relationship has grown increasingly rocky.
Last year, commissioners asked for their funding to be used solely for the breakfast.
Blackwell, also Salisbury’s Mayor Pro Tem, said the funding has only been used for the breakfast.
Blackwell said she was “very sad” about the board’s decision to walk away from the organization, but noted she has received support from other city officials.
“In anticipating this coming about, I requested an extra $2,000 from the city of Salisbury in our budget hearing last Wednesday,” Blackwell said. “Our city council was very happy to promote diversity. So there’s a contrast.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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