City Council approves assistance for school system’s central office

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Salisbury City Council approved more than $650,000 for the county school system’s new central office building during its meeting Tuesday.

Council unanimously approved a $500,000 cash contribution to the Rowan-Salisbury School System for the new administration office set to be built on the 500 block of N. Main Street near downtown Salisbury.

Council also approved up to $156,000 of in-kind assistance for work related to the project. The amount is based on bids the school system received from private contractors for the work.

Council agreed to have city staff construct sidewalks, install water meters, wastewater taps, fire hydrants, put parking spaces on Main Street and extend storm drainage on Cemetery Street.

Interim City Manager John Sofley said the work approved by council consists of things the city regularly does. He also said the cost will be cheaper than what the school system had in its request because city staff, not private contractors, will do the work. He said the majority of the cost will be for materials.

Sofley said the city has done similar in-kind work for other projects, including the Salisbury Business Center, home to Integro Technologies.

The money will come out of the city’s general fund balance, essentially a savings account, which currently has over $13 million in it.

Before voting, council heard briefly from Board of Education Chairman Richard Miller and the school system’s Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Anthony Vann.

Miller said, “We want to say that our engagement with the Salisbury City Council in these last few years, on this project, has been most beneficial.”

The school system had requested the city do over $1 million worth of work, including putting a dome on top of the building ($341,000) and laying the parking lot ($368,000). But council only chose items that were consistent with what has been done in the past.

Each council member expressed strong support for the new central office, which will house over 150 school-system employees near the heart of the city. Councilwoman Karen Alexander said the central office is like an economic development project.

Councilman William Kennedy said the new office is long overdue.

Kennedy made the point that before the city and county school systems merged in 1989, the city levied a tax to fund its schools but stopped the tax after the merger.

At the time, the tax raised $282,000 a year for the city’s schools, Sofley said.

Ending the tax has saved city taxpayers millions of dollars, Kennedy said.

Speaking about the new central office, Councilman Brian Miller said, “We have got to get it done,” for the good of the county.

“It’s the least we can do to help the (school) system …” he said about the city’s contributions.

Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell said the central office will help the school system recruit high-quality educators.

Mayor Paul Woodson called the vote to approve the contributions one of the most important votes during his 17 years on City Council.

In other business, council:

• approved a final summary for the denial of a special use permit for the West End Plaza, which was requested by the county. The county now has the opportunity to appeal the decision in front of a judge.

• adopted a resolution seeking permission to file applications with the federal Transit Administration for federal transportation assistance.

• adopted a resolution seeking permission to apply for community transportation funding through the state’s Department of Transportation.

• authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute a municipal agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation regarding sidewalks along South Main Street from D Avenue to Rowan Mill Road.

• approved a request to close the outside lane of westbound traffic and the sidewalk in the 200 block of W. Innes St. from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on weekdays beginning Dec. 1 and ending Dec. 31 for construction at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

• adopted a resolution of support for the Carolina Thread Trail Greenway master plan for Rowan County.

• approved a contract for $498,985.05 with Sutphen Corporation for the purchase of a pumper truck for the Fire Department.