Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2013

SALISBURY — A Rowan County commissioner has resigned from the Downtown Salisbury Inc. board but says it has nothing to do with a growing conflict between the city and county regarding downtown.
County commission Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said the DSI board’s 7:45 a.m. meeting time conflicted with his business, Pierce Interiors and Construction, which opens at 8 a.m. The board meets once a month.
“I had a situation where not only were my crews waiting to go to work, but customers were waiting on me,” he said. “That is a critical point of the day for me to get my crews out the door.”
Pierce’s letter to DSI President Mark Lewis said only that he was resigning. Lewis said he was not surprised but was sorry to see Pierce go.
“I was really impressed with Craig’s attendance and participation and I hate to lose him, but if he feels like politically that this is the right thing to do, I understand that,” Lewis said.
Pierce said while he expects people will assume that he resigned the board for political reasons, that’s not the case.
“I agree the timing may not look the best, but this is nothing other than the meeting time does not work for me,” he said.
Pierce recently announced at a Republican party meeting that Rowan County will pull several departments and offices out of downtown and move them to the Salisbury Mall, which commissioners are buying for $3.45 million. County officials have discussed putting the board of elections, veteran services department, a sheriff’s office warehouse, the transportation department, register of deeds, tax assessor, planning department and possibly the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, county’s largest department, in the mall.
An exodus of county employees from downtown Salisbury would come on the heels of a longstanding dispute between the city and county over 329 S. Main St., where the school board and city wanted to put the school central office but commissioners refused.
Pierce had served on the DSI board since January and said he enjoyed the meetings.
“It’s very dedicated and intelligent people trying to do the right things to bring Salisbury’s downtown back to vibrancy,” Pierce said.
Because the county commission makes board assignments in December, Pierce said he decided to resign now so another commissioner could join the DSI board and dedicate more time to the organization as DSI prepares to hire a new exeuctive director.
“It was in their best interest for me to step out before we got to the point where they needed to hire director,” Pierce said. “This way, another commissioner would not feel like they were taking it away from me.”
Lewis said Commissioner Jon Barber has expressed interest in serving. Commission Chairman Jim Sides makes the board appointment. The DSI board includes 21 members, with Councilman Brian Miller serving for the city of Salisbury.
Lewis said he hopes another county commissioner will join the DSI board soon.
“We discovered when talking to all of our partner economic development groups that we were not getting the synergy we needed, and the way to get that synergy is to cross-pollinate boards,” Lewis said.
Prior to Pierce, former Commissioner Raymond Coltrain served on the DSI board.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.