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City talks quality of life projects, Fibrant at budget workshop

By Amanda Raymond

amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council talked quality of life projects and Fibrant at its budget workshop last Thursday.

One quality of life project discussed was a dog park. According to meeting documents, Rowan County Manager Aaron Church let City Manager Lane Bailey know that the county had a place saved for the park in its budget.

Bailey said the city has asked for funds from the county. The city’s end of the deal could be to buy and maintain the property.

About $16,000 has been raised for the dog park. Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said suggested the Dog PAWS, a citizen group working towards developing the dog park, be included in the planning process.

Mayor Karen Alexander asked that a formal request to the county for the funds be put on an upcoming council meeting agenda so that the project can move forward.

The council also discussed Salisbury Transit. Assistant City Manager John Sofley said Rowan County declined its appropriations, so funds will be split between the three eligible systems that are left. He also said Salisbury’s transit system will be getting more money than it did last year. Salisbury Transit will reduce its fund balance appropriation by $24,000 and will be able to purchase a crossover rescue van.

Bailey mentioned that the transit department has been in talks with Catawba and Livingstone colleges about a new college transit program. Sofley said it was Livingstone College that requested a proposal that will let students use their college identification cards to ride. He hopes Catawba will get on board with the program.

The program would add two new routes with longer hours.

Blackwell asked if the buses could be wrapped to make them college buses and Bailey said it was a possibility.

Bailey said the program “would make Salisbury more of a college town,” according to the meeting notes.

While talking about quality of life improvements, councilman Brian Miller said the city has to deal with Fibrant, the city’s fiber optic network, to free up funding for different projects.

Later in the meeting, Miller brought up Fibrant again and said the city needed to fund the gap that exists for Fibrant.

According to notes from the meeting, Miller pointed out that some Fibrant costs can be paid for in the general fund. He said one-time installation costs also create revenue.

City Manager Lane Bailey said credit checks should be implemented so that Fibrant will be sold to customers who can pay for it. The city also has to be able to get equipment back from customers who do not pay.

Bailey also said the general fund currently subsidizes the Fibrant’s funding gap and the goal was to reduce that gap.

Mayor Karen Alexander brought up that councilman David Post had been working with city staff to come up with detailed accounting for Fibrant. Finance Director Teresa Harris said the way information is gathered will be changed and the information should be ready by July 1. Harris said the different report will “put the information into financial decision-making terms,” according to the meeting notes.

Post said it was necessary to have all of Fibrant’s data in one place in order to see the whole picture and a business plan must be developed to move forward. He also said that he thought Fibrant would be able to break-even at 35 percent market share if the city shows commitment and utilizes the people in the community with the experience to help.

Bailey said one thing the city staff is working on is transparency. He said in about 90 days the staff will have information that will help the city figure out what next step it should take with Fibrant.

The city council will vote on the proposed fiscal year 2016-2017 budget at its meeting on Tuesday.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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