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School board may consider more sites for consolidated school

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In response to community feedback, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education agreed at its Monday business meeting to consider more sites for the planned consolidated western elementary school.

The board is currently under contract for a parcel of land at the intersection of N.C. 801 and Godbey Road, and has paid about $10,000 in earnest money. But at a recent community meeting, people from Cleveland and Woodleaf raised concerns about the location.

The property is adjacent to Southern Power, which had an explosion in late April. Residents who live near the area also reported that the intersection is a busy one, and has lots of traffic from quarry trucks.

“There have been some questions that were raised. I think some of them were legitimate questions and there were some legitimate concerns,” school board Chairman Josh Wagner said.

At Monday’s meeting Wagner asked if the board would be willing to look at other sites.

“We don’t have any information necessarily to share, I wanted to just have some discussion amongst the board,” he said.

The new school would replace both Cleveland and Woodleaf elementary schools, and is a merger that’s been more than eight years in the making. But when the board began looking for appropriately sized properties in 2014, Wagner said, the Godbey Road parcel was the only one they could find, that he was aware of. Wagner said the new school needs a property that is roughly 31 acres, with between 22 and 25 usable acres.

“Initially, we really had very few options,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

At a March 14 work session, the town of Cleveland offered a parcel of land to the board as an alternate site. Wagner asked if the board would give staff 30 days to research the site, but the board chose not to consider the property.

In an echo of that failed proposal, board member Chuck Hughes Monday made a motion to direct system staff to recommend alternate sites for consideration and report back in 30 days, and Travis Allen seconded.

Wagner said that since the community meetings, other properties that could prove to be suitable have been put on the market.

“So I think we have some more options now than we did,” he said.

And it’s possible the board would gain more money than it would lose with a property switch. The Godbey Road property would require the system to install a wastewater main — something that may not be necessary at other sites.

“You’re talking about saving $1 million,” he said.

But the original property is still on the table.

“Is 801-Godbey Road still one of them, but you would like additionals, as well? I just wanted to clarify,” Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody asked at the meeting.

Hughes said that had been his intent, and amended his motion, Allen seconded.

Board member Dr. Richard Miller asked what impact the delay would have on the construction timeline for the new school. If the board closes on the property, the school would be set to open sometime in 2018. Wagner said the board has a three month window before construction would be affected.

Board member Dean Hunter wanted to know if it would affect the contract the board has with the owners of the Godbey Road property.

“It does not change anything,” Wagner said, “We’re still under contract but we have not closed.”

The motion passed with six board members voting for finding alternate sites, and board member Jean Kennedy abstaining.

After the meeting, Kennedy said she chose not to vote because she did not think the board should waste the earnest money it spent on the Godbey Road site, but did not want to cause an uproar by voting against it. The motion would have passed, either way, she said.

But Wagner said the money that could be saved by switching properties would far outweigh the loss of the earnest money.

“I would gladly give up $10,ooo to gain $1 million,” he said. “The math works out pretty well there.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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