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Commissioners’ actions are everyone’s business
I registered as a Republican in 1960, principally because I felt many years of dominance by the Democratic Party in Rowan County had begun to produce local leaders who were too arrogant and smug in the way they governed the county. I like to think I played some small part in changing that one-party dominance.
I’ve been involved in a number of controversies during the course of my life. I was a public school teacher during school integration days. I was a school board member during negotiations for the merger of the Rowan County and Salisbury City Schools. I served as chairman of the interim merged board when controversial new attendance lines had to be hammered out. Most recently, I had serious disagreements with the city of Salisbury when it made what I considered an unjust attempt annex my area into the city limits.
Through all of these difficult situations, I fought hard for those things I felt to be just and fair. At the same time, I always tried to adhere to the adage you do not have to be disagreeable to disagree. In the majority of situations, I found that opponents responded in the same spirit.
During some of these difficult situations, I have seen some tempers flare, and I have seen a great deal of arrogance demonstrated. I don’t, however, recall ever hearing an elected public official be arrogant enough to tell a citizen that “it’s none of your damn business” concerning a board’s anticipated action. Any action a board of commissioners takes is the business of every individual citizen in the county, whether he be a city official, rich or poor, black or white, urban or rural. Any person advocating differently will certainly receive no future votes from this household.
If our public leaders persist in the present bullheaded course then someday we may find Rowan County defined as that little pocket of poverty between Iredell and Cabarrus counties. The economies of Salisbury and the rest of Rowan County are entwined. We are all in the same boat and we can row together or sink together. The sooner we realize this and enter a new spirit of cooperation the sooner we might expect to see some real economic growth.
— Carl Eagle
Salisbury

Bad deal for taxpayers
From day one, I’ve opposed county purchase and redevelopment of the Salisbury Mall. I remember when Rowan County last did something like this, which resulted in us selling a baseball stadium valued at $9 million for $3 million to Kannapolis. We lost $6 million on that deal. The mall will be worse.
First, we are paying $1 million more than what it sold for a couple of years ago. On top of this, we’re the only interested buyer. This is the catbird seat. The majority of the commissioners, led by Vice Chairman Craig Pierce, would pay too much for the mall. We should have gotten it for less.
I requested our board to instruct staff to perform a phase 1 environmental study of the property before final negotiations continued. My request was ignored, yet the board is well aware we are faced with a contamination cleanup of approximately $5 million to extend the airport runway. Folks, that’s your tax money they’re spending.
Preliminary estimates show it will cost in excess of $30 million to redevelop the mall. Add that to the purchase price, and it’s equal to the debt the City of Salisbury issued for Fibrant.
The acquisition of the mall will require a property tax increase of over 3 cents just to make the debt payment on such a redevelopment. Operating such a large property — insurance, utilities, and maintenance — will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of your tax money.
This is a money loser that will raise taxes. It will come back on us like the baseball stadium. The mall project will be this board’s Fibrant.
The only way to not raise property taxes for this project is to forgo redevelopment and let it sit as an eyesore. This project will be a reminder that elected bodies should seek public input before spending millions of taxpayer dollars.
Tax and spend? Due diligence? Transparency?
Watch carefully what happens after the results of the phase 1 environmental results are in.
— Jon Barber
Mt. Ulla
Barber serves on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Taking on white elephant?
Has enough been said about the juvenile behavior of our county commission? Without regard for the hard work of previous county commissions, the school board and city council, they casually put on hold countless hours of thoughtful planning, and yet, they are anxious to proceed with a hastily conceived notion to purchase a white elephant that no one else would even bid on.
The idea of consolidating county services has been their rationale, but what to do with all the properties currently housing these agencies? If this is such a good idea, why not put it on the ballot as a bond issue? A special election would certainly be cheaper than a $3.5 million debt.
It seems that Commissioners Sides and Pierce are more anxious to establish a legacy than to serve the county. Now there’s an idea, let’s put their names on a plaque downtown. It’s cheaper.
— John Alexander
Salisbury

Remember, ‘for all’
The late Red Skelton once related the story of a teacher who felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite in class. I think county Commissioners Sides and Pierce — in fact, all elected officials — can benefit greatly from that teacher’s words:
“I’ve been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain the meaning of each word?
“I: Me, an individual, a committee of one.
“Pledge: Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.
“Allegiance: My love and my devotion.
“To the flag: Our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job.
“United: That means that we have all come together.
“States: Individual communities that have united into 48 (+2) great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that’s love for country.
“And to the republic for which it stands: A state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people … and it’s from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
“One nation: ‘One nation, so blessed by God.’
“Indivisible: Incapable of being divided.
“With liberty: Which is freedom; the right of power to live one’s own life without threats, fear or some sort of retaliation.
“And justice: The principal or quality of dealing fairly with others.
“For all: Which means, boys and girls, it’s as much your country as it is mine.”
This war veteran wishes to charge Mr. Sides and Mr. Pierce to search their souls and hearts for their definition of freedom. All elected officials should remember: You’re in that position as a gift from God; how you perform your duties is your gift back to God.
— W.C. Wallin
Salisbury

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