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Commissioners approve school central office loan unanimously

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday quietly gave a unanimous thumbs up to financing for the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s new central office.

With relatively little discussion, commissioners approved a $6.5 million loan and the purchase of a small piece of land next to the proposed building. During the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said the land purchase would allow the school system to save money in some areas and add windows to another side of the building.

The loan approval is the farthest the school system has gotten with the central office proposal in a long time, school board Chairman Josh Wagner said after the meeting.

“It is certainly not what I would call the number one priority in the county, but we’re here,” Wagner said. “We’ve waited long enough. We’ve fought enough. So, I think it’s something we can finally put to rest, be done with it and not have to talk about it anymore.”

The approved loan proposal came from SunTrust Bank at an interest rate of 2.48 percent, which would result in $1.32 million in interest. With interest, the total financial package would be about $7.82 million. Finance director Leslie Heidrick said one reason the SunTrust Bank loan was attractive was a fixed rate over 15 years. The loan will be paid for through a tax specifically designated for capital improvements.

The total debt incurred by the county is relatively low compared to the overall total owed by Rowan County government. As of 2013, Local Government Commission documents show that Rowan County has debt of more than $80 million.

Other funding sources for the Rowan-Salisbury School System central office include the City of Salisbury, which has pledged $500,000 and $150,000 in in-kind services; the Robertson Foundation, which pledged $850,000; and $150,000 from philanthropist Fred Stanback.

The approval from commissioners Monday leaves one more step before construction on the central office is a reality — Local Government Commission approval. Both county government and school system officials say they’re are hoping the $6.5 million loan is approved during the state commission’s February meeting.

Loan requests must be sent to the Local Government Commission 30 days in advance of a meeting. County manager Aaron Church said Rowan County would mail the loan documents as soon as possible following Monday’s approval to hopefully get on the state board’s February meeting agenda.

If the Local Government Commission approves the loan, the school system could begin moving in early 2016 or perhaps before Christmas 2015, depending on construction, said Rowan-Salisbury School System Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.

“Our intention is that we would be in that building before Christmas of next year,” Moody said after Monday’s meeting.

Financially, the loan may have been the biggest proposal approved by commissioners Monday, but the school system also received approval to purchase a small tract of land next to the proposed building. Vann said the extra land would be a green space. He said the dimensions of the additional land would be 20 feet by 161 feet.

Without the land purchase, Vann said, the new school system building would have been too close to one of the proposed building’s neighbors.

“It was so close to our building that we were within six feet of the chimney on the Shulenburger Property,” Vann said. “It was extremely close.”

He said the extra space would allow the building to have windows on the side facing the new property. Without the purchase, one side of the building would’ve been entirely brick, requiring special footings and a firewall for reinforcement.

In one of the only statements by a commissioner during discussion about the loan, board Chairman Greg Edds said the new windows would add value aesthetically.

“I’m glad you did this and I would hate to see that building built with three stories of solid brick on one side,” Edds said.

The purchase of the property wouldn’t use any county funds, Vann said. Instead, the school system would pay for the purchase through money paid by Duke Energy to maintain a right of way for its power lines.

 

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