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5 central office sites on agenda

Craig Pierce is ready to start over in siting a new central office for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ agenda for Monday includes a proposal from Vice Chairman Pierce to offer the school board five possible county-owned sites on which commissioners would agree to build a “functional, attractive and cost-effective” structure for a total of $6 million, including all plans and site preparation.
The sites are:
• Beside Isenberg Elementary School on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
• On North Long Street in East Spencer, on the site of one of the system’s existing administrative offices.
• On Old Concord Road, beside the bus garage.
• In Summit Corporate Center, the county’s industrial park.
• In China Grove, off U.S. 29
Pierce’s proposal says that if the school board accepts the offer, the county would borrow funds to build a new structure, with the approval of the Local Government Commission. Commissioners would prepare a memorandum of understanding and get to work right away.
Commissioners signed a letter to the school board in 2012 agreeing “to provide up to $6 million toward your efforts to locate and build a new administrative center” without stipulating the location. The board of commissioners’ makeup changed in the election later that year, however, and the majority voted against following through on the letter.
Commissioners cited concerns about contaminated soil at the site the school board chose, property the city of Salisbury offered to give the school system at 329 N. Main St.
The system has developed site plans, and the city and state have spent $496,665 to remove underground tanks and replace contaminated soil. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has cleared the property for development, with two wells in place to monitor groundwater contamination.
Since the department has yet to issue a “no further action” letter for the property, Pierce and others say it’s too risky for a central office site.
The city offered to finance an $8 million central office for the school system but pulled its application to the Local Government Commission before the state agency decided.
Recently an unnamed local family has reached out to officials with an offer to finance the deal — now $7.3 million, with bids and financing coming in under projections.
But that would require county approval, and commissioners have not supported the idea.
Now Pierce is offering a possible solution.
“It is the intent of the Board of Commissioners to resolve this long standing issue and move forward with our priority of educating our children and building a better Rowan County,” Pierce’s proposal says.
The central office proposal is one of the last items on Monday’s agenda. Other items are, in order:
• A consent agenda that includes an annual agreement for a housing rehab program (HOME), setting a public hearing for a Community Development Block Grant application and changes in the schedule for saving and disposing of records in the Register of Deeds’ Office and for the county.
• Public comment period.
• A public hearing for the rezoning of 4.75 acres at the intersection of U.S. 52 and Old Beatty Ford Road — now a car lot across from in Gold Hill Airpark — from neighborhood business to commercial, business, industrial. Larry Shackleford has requested the rezoning; Phil and Kitty Leonard own the property.
• A public hearing on seeking more than $546,000 for the Rowan Transit System through the state’s 2015 Community Transportation Program.
• A public hearing to amend the county’s HOME action plan so it can build two new homes in East Spencer.
• A demonstration by Pictometry, an aerial photography service that captures “every square foot of a county” from five directions, information said to be useful for tax assessors, planning agencies, utilities, engineering, transportation, 911 and other emergency services. Commissioners signed a contract with the company in July and plan a February 2014 flight schedule, but the decision is not final until they see the demonstration. Fifty counties in the state already use Pictometry. The cost is an average of $75,000 per flight.
• After the central office discussion, the commission plans to go into executive session to consider the purchase of real property. The county has been in negotiations to buy Salisbury Mall.

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