Commissioners to hear plan for handgun rules at county sites

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2014

Recommendations include 2-year timeline
By Scott Jenkins
Rowan County commissioners will hear a recommendation Monday on allowing handgun owners with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons onto county property, where those handguns are currently banned.
Commissioners meet at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the county government building, 130 W. Innes St.
The Rowan County Planning Board voted 8-1 in July to recommend an amendment to county ordinances that would make the change.
The amendment is meant to bring the county into compliance with North Carolina law written to ensure uniform rules across the state for concealed-carry permit holders. The law allows those permit holders to take their guns into parks and other recreational facilities.
But it’s less clear on local government buildings, saying boards can “adopt an ordinance to permit the posting of a prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun … on local government buildings and their appurtenant premises.”
That ambiguity prompted concerns from county department heads who pointed out that not only would the general public be allowed to carry guns, but so would employees.
Among the questions the department heads asked: What about the Department of Social Services, where employees often deal with abusive parents. And what happens when an employee carrying a handgun has to be fired?
“We’re not necessarily against this, but we want — in an overabundance of caution — to be prepared,” Planning Director Ed Muire said at the Planning Board meeting in July. “It’s not to prevent this from happening. It’s anticipating the worst-case scenario.”
A committee including Muire, Sheriff Kevin Auten and Social Services Director Donna Fayko along with two other department heads and County Manager Gary Page recommended a two-year timeline that would immediately allow concealed-carry in parks but delay it for other properties while safety and liability concerns were addressed.
Among their recommendations were hiring a law firm with expertise in personnel and firearms concerns to develop a policy and advise on liability concerns, and to delay allowing guns in county buildings until that’s accomplished. They also recommended training in workplace violence, self-defense and threat recognition, as well as giving supervisors the option of having law enforcement present for disciplinary hearings and firings.
And they recommended installing metal detectors at all county-owned buildings and having law enforcement stationed at them.
The Planning Board voted 9-0 to oppose that plan, but agreed to forward it on to commissioners.
The planning staff recommends the board set a public hearing on the proposed text amendment.
In other business, commissioners:
• Are scheduled to discuss a request by Tsunami Development Literacy Program for space in the former Salisbury Mall. The nonprofit group asked the board at its Aug. 4 meeting for space to start an after school program and set up a computer lab for children who may not have access to computers at home.
• Will consider awarding a bid to renovate about 1,600 square feet at the former mall, now called West End Plaza, to house the county’s Veteran Services Office.
• Consider a consent agenda that includes a proclamation supporting RumbleQuake, a planned Nov. 8 motorcycle parade to honor veterans; a request to host a dinner honoring veterans in the former JC Penney at West End Plaza; two proposed lease amendments at West End Plaza; and a resolution opposing federal practices that encourage illegal immigration, including that of children.
• Enter closed session to discuss an economic development issue.