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A need whose time has come

Some people waited nearly two hours to speak at the Salisbury City Council’s public hearing Tuesday, but they didn’t mind. What’s two hours when you’ve been waiting 24 years?
That’s how many years have passed since the Rowan County and Salisbury City school systems merged. The temporary arrangement to continue using both systems’ central offices has stretched out much longer than anyone expected. The sentiment in the council meeting was clear. It’s time for a change, and people are grateful that Salisbury City Council is willing to help.
Some 80 people spoke, only one against the proposal. They included business people, school employees and retired citizens — nearly all Rowan County taxpayers — speaking with pride of Rowan County, Salisbury and the school system. There was no tearing down or name-calling, only a unified sense that the school system needs a consolidated central office and that a proposed structure at 329 S. Main St. could serve that purpose very well.
City and school officials feel confident they can win approval from the Local Government Commission to proceed with this project without having to get an OK from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Whether required or not, though, commissioners should give this project their sincere blessing. It addresses a challenge the county has been batting around for years. As recently as 2009, commissioners were talking about splitting the cost with the school system. Now they have a chance to finally see this key need filled.
And make no mistake — it is a need. The school system’s nearly 90-year-old building at 110 S. Long St. has foregone improvements while the system built and expanded school after school through two large bond projects. The Ellis Street offices, which are even older, are not a lot better. And there are three other school office locations as well. After decades of putting everyone else first, the school board realizes its employees and computer system need a safer, more modernized work environment that cuts inefficiencies and unites the system — not to the detriment of the schools themselves but rather to serve them better.
City Council got its answer Tuesday to the question of whether citizens support this project. And how. Now the city must work out the financing and a lease with the school system in a way that does not burden city government or city taxpayers — or keep them in the dark. Transparency is key. The central office is a feel-good project, for sure, but it must also work out well.
Thanks to City Council for giving the school system and the community a chance to make this important step forward.

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