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West End Plaza purchase could cause increase; commissioners set hearing for May 19

Following another anticipated bombardment Monday by La Resistance members, Rowan County commissioners evaluated and approved at their meeting a resolution necessary to move the West End Plaza financing along with respect to the Local Government Commission.
Commissioner Jon Barber wanted to strike one of the West End Plaza resolution’s items indicating a half-cent property tax hike would be necessary to pay back the debt.
“We have not had a budget discussion yet,” Barber said.
Barber received no second and subsequently was the only commissioner voting against approving the resolution.
“Everybody knows I’m opposed to this. I respect my fellow commissioners’ decision on what they have done even though I disagree,” Barber said.
Barber said he will be contacting the LGC directly.
“I would rather for the LGC to hear directly from me why I’ve been opposed to the purchase of this mall and its impact on this board’s, and future board’s, ability to properly fund projects we know are coming in addition to properly funding our (school system),” Barber said.
Rowan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides said the mall cost the county $3.45 million, and commissioners borrowed another $500,000 to upfit the mall for the board of elections and veteran services office.
“That’s close to $4 million that we’re borrowing. That debt has to be paid,” Sides said. “We could finance it over 20 years and maybe pay $250,000 a year. We could finance it over 10 years and pay $500,000 a year, but there is a direct cost with the purchase of the mall.”
The county decided on ten years.
Commissioners can pay for the debt service on the mall out of the county fund balance or with the funds raised from the rental and lease revenues received from the mall, Sides said.
The other option is a tax increase.
“I’m convinced that no matter how we pay for it, if there is any tax increase of any amount for any reason it’s going to be claimed that at least a half-cent of that was due to the mall,” Sides said.
Rowan County is a big government with about $130 million, Sides said.
“We borrow a lot of money. All that has to be paid back,” Sides said. “It has to come from somewhere. It always comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers.” Regardless of where the $500,000 a year for the next decade comes from, Sides said it has to be paid.
If the county doesn’t take enough revenue from the businesses in the mall and doesn’t take the money out of the fund balance, Sides said the money has to come from the taxpayers.
“A month ago, I told (commissioners) how the revenues out there generated enough to cover the overhead,” Rowan County Manager Gary Page said. “We just didn’t have enough to cover the debt. If you find something in the budget you can cut, we can amend the resolution to say it didn’t require a tax increase.”
If the county keeps the libraries and parks open and has to come up with $500,000, Page said he needs a half-cent.
Commissioners voted to set an official public hearing concerning the financing of the purchase of West End Plaza at their May 19 meeting.
Several people wearing red berets took the podium during the public comments section to both blast the commissioners’ decision to buy the mall and respond vehemently to a video posted online of Sides attacking almost a dozen people at the GOP Men’s Club breakfast Saturday at Ryan’s restaurant.
GeoRene Jones brought a Halloween skeleton prop to the podium to symbolize she did, in fact, have a skeleton in the closet in order to counter a jab Sides made at her at this weekend’s breakfast.
“I suspect, however, (Sides) may have been referring to some malicious slander put forward by several, including some proud Tea Party patriots when they wrote about me – ‘she is a lesbo,’” Jones said. “I am not a lesbian. I believe this slanderous allegation was put forward as an attempt to alienate conservative voters and draw their attention away from the serious issues that plague our county.”
Larry Wright, a member of the county’s planning board, said there are Satanic forces at work in Rowan County.
“Satanic forces hate for our commissioners to pray in Jesus’ name at the beginning of their meetings. Satanic forces hate to read Bible verses on a van or anywhere else,” Wright said. “Satanic forces hate it when they see a cross anywhere in the county. Satanic forces hate these things, but love it when the ACLU sues our commissioners for praying in the name of Jesus.”
In order to defeat the Satanic forces, Wright said “good, Christian people in every town and our rural areas need to turn out (today) and vote for strong conservative people” for the county commission.
A big turnout in rural areas and smaller towns will keep the city from dominating the county commission, Wright said.

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