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Commissioners breeze through meeting, discuss mall permit in closed session

When Rowan County commissioners met Monday, they spent twice as much time in closed session as in the open portion of the meeting.

The closed session covered a community block development grant contract update, approval of two sets of closed session minutes and a special use permit for West End Plaza, which wasn’t listed on the initial agenda.

Because it was a closed session, commissioners did not comment about the private discussion. But County Attorney Jay Dees explained after Monday’s meeting that the commissioners planned to continue with an appeal of a Salisbury City Council decision to deny the permit.

Dees said the appeal could be submitted as soon as next week, as the final record of the permit denial is being prepared by the City of Salisbury now. The appeal will be submitted before three new board members replace outgoing commissioners Jim Sides, Chad Mitchell and Jon Barber, Dees said.

“We can’t wait until the new board is seated,” he said. “The order comes out this week and we’ve got 30 days to file or we lose our right to an appeal. I’m filing this appeal at the request of this board, but it’s also to protect that right if the new board comes in and says, ‘Wait a second, maybe we do need to pursue this.’”

He said no actual decision on the validity of the permit denial would be made before new commissioners’ terms begin.

Dees also addressed a letter signed by all but one county commissioner candidate that called the county’s decision to challenge the denial a lawsuit.

“The county is not suing the city,” Dees said. “This is not litigation. This is a statutory right that anybody has.”

He said the new board could withdraw the appeal once terms begin, which would essentially make the city’s decision final. Besides withdrawing the appeal, Dees said the new board could also submit a conditional district overlay, which was recommended by the city council.

In other news from Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners approved a change work order for the landfill. The change work order is for rock excavation.

During a presentation on Monday, Michael Plummer, a project manager with HDR Inc., said a contractor discovered a rock outcrop during work on a landfill cell. Removing the rock outcrop would cost more money than the amount of funds available.

By removing the rock, Plummer said the county would free up space that, with the county’s current tonnage rates, equals more than $2 million.

The change work order doesn’t actually cost the county any money as the original, approved bid for landfill work included a contingency line item. Commissioners voted to transfer $200,000 out of the contingency line item to remove the rock outcrop.

“So, my understanding is by spending $200,000 we can save $2 million?” Pierce asked Plummer. “That’s pretty easy math.”

• The commissioners passed an item as part of its consent agenda that allows outgoing commissioners to purchase county-issued property worth less than $500, such as iPads issued to all commissioners.

• Commissioners voted in favor of an item that allows Sides to keep his county email address as he continues to serve as chairman of the Department of Social Services Board.

• Commissioners approved the purchase of a Chevy Tahoe not to exceed $33,893 for the Department of Emergency Services.

• Commissioners approved a $196,500 contract to renovate the county courthouse’s roof.

• Two Rowan County Transit System vehicles were declared surplus.

• Commissioners approved two grant applications for the Rowan County Transit System.

• Commissioners held a public hearing for the 2015 schedule of values and 2015 present use schedules. No one show up to speak for or against either. The commissioners will vote on both in November.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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