Mall, Fibrant belong to us
After hearing an update at last week’s City Council meeting on how many subscribers Fibrant now has, Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson made a casual comment, which holds some subtle truth for white elephants past and present.
“To make Fibrant successful in Salisbury,” the mayor said, “all you have to do is sign up.”
Many Rowan County and Salisbury taxpayers — if they could turn back time to when the local government decisions were made — would not fund a $6.45 million minor league baseball stadium, would not borrow $33 million for a fiber-optic utility and would not purchase an old mall for $3.425 million.
All of these projects were decided on with an eye to the future, and they all also proved to be controversial.
Salisbury’s Fibrant utility and Rowan County’s purchase of the former Salisbury Mall remain hot-button issues. They harken back to 1995 and the first season of the Piedmont Phillies (now the Kannapolis Intimidators) in then new Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium.
The Phillies’ first-year attendance was 96,352, much lower than the 160,000 projected by Kannapolis City Council and Rowan County commissioners when they set out their financing for the inaugural season.
The stadium issue would go on to influence elections, and angry taxpayers boycotted games as their way of protesting what they saw as a government boondoggle.
But once Rowan County was all in on the stadium, why would taxpayers want to sabotage their own product? It didn’t make sense. Why devalue, year after year, something you’re paying for over the same period?
Part of that sentiment — as hard as it might be to accept — was contained in Woodson’s observation. City taxpayers now have a big stake in Fibrant. Why not support it? Why would they want to see it fail, and shouldn’t they instead be the biggest ambassadors for its success, even if they don’t sign up as Fibrant customers?
Likewise, plenty of discussion has accompanied Rowan County’s decision to buy the former Salisbury Mall, now called the West End Plaza.
Whole groups have formed as an expression against the mall’s purchase. Elections already have been influenced by that decision.
But the fact remains, Rowan County taxpayers own the West End Plaza. They need to accept that fact and, through their elected officials and candidates for office, find the best and highest use for the property. The opportunity is still there.
Of all the white elephants in Rowan County’s room, it’s difficult at this point to say which one is the whitest. Time especially will tell with Fibrant and the West End Plaza.
But in each case, it’s time to get over the decision. It’s done. Now make it work. We’re yelling at the umpire, without realizing we have to drive him home, feed him and give him a place to sleep.