Central office loan scheduled for state commission’s Tuesday agenda

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 29, 2015

The final piece of funding for the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s central office financing could be finalized next week.

The state’s Local Government Commission is scheduled on Tuesday to consider a $6.5-million loan proposal from Rowan County. The loan, which comes with about $1 million in interest, would pay for a significant majority of the school system’s new central office, planned to be located on the 500 block of North Main Street. The city of Salisbury is pitching in $500,000 in cash and about $150,000 in in-kind services. Other monetary contributions include $875,000 from the Robertson Foundation and $150,000 from philanthropist Fred Stanback.

When asked about the loan’s placement on the Local Government Commission’s agenda, School Board Chairman Josh Wagner talked about scheduling a groundbreaking ceremony and getting construction started. He said no firm dates had been scheduled for the school central office, as some uncertainty surrounded when funding methods would be finalized.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Wagner said. “It seems like we’ve been talking about it for years and years. It’s nice to finally be close to an approval on the funding agreement.”

With financing approval in February, the central office could be ready to occupy in late 2015 or early 2016, said Superintendent Lynn Moody in a previous interview with the Salisbury Post.

The county received proposals from three banks for the central office loan in December. The proposal commissioners approved, from SunTrust Bank, came with two interest options — the lower of the two was 2.48 percent.

If the Local Government Commission approves the loan in February, the county’s payments would end in February 2030. The repayments will come from a tax specifically designated for school capital improvements.

In addition to Rowan’s loan application, the Local Government Commission agenda packet includes multiple letters from an individual opposed to the central office, Salisbury resident Ronnie Smith. All are marked by Smith as “highly confidential” or “highly sensitive.” Each letter details various points of opposition Smith has to the project.

In one letter, Smith makes allegations about “a criminal conspiracy” behind the real estate transaction and lists 116 people he says are involved.

Smith made similar allegations several years ago about the siting of the local hospice house.

Objection letters are standard practice to include with submissions to the Local Government Commission, said LGC spokesman Brad Young.

When asked about Smith’s letters, Wagner said he questioned the credibility of the statements.

“I’ve certainly had questions in the past and wanted to make sure everything was done properly, but I wouldn’t go as far as accusing someone of real estate or financial fraud,” Wagner said. “I think, if there were any credibility to that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

County Manager Aaron Church said the county would prepare a response to the allegations.

County attorney Jay Dees said he wasn’t familiar with any sort of illegal transactions and believes the Rowan Salisbury School System “performed its proper due diligence as to the efficacy and validity of those transactions.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246