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State: Rowan, other counties have reached ‘attainment’ status in air quality

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Does the air seem cleaner? Town Manager Phil Conrad told the Board of Aldermen Monday that Rowan County and North Carolina’s other 99 counties have reached “attainment” status in federal air-quality standards.

“The quality of our air has gotten better,” Conrad said, citing a Sept. 30 letter to the Environmental Protection Agency regional office in Atlanta from Donald R. van der Vaart, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

In the letter, van der Vaart says all of North Carolina’s counties have attained the federal Clean Air Act requirements, based on primary and secondary eight-hour standards for ozone.

Rowan County has been among many counties in North Carolina which have long been saddled with a “non-attainment” status for the ozone standard. Rowan County actually is home to monitors measuring the ozone design values.

Conrad said Rowan County has no way of knowing how many and what kind of industries it may have missed out on because of the non-attainment status.

Having the attainment designation for cleaner air “will be an important thing moving forward,” Conrad said.

“Over the past decade,” van der Vaart’s letter to the EPA said, “North Carolina has implemented substantial, progressive emissions reductions that have resulted in statewide attainment of the 1997 eight-hour and 2008 eight-hour ozone standards.

“This improvement has been achieved through hard work and partnerships with our many local, state and federal partners.

“… North Carolina is committed to protecting the health of our citizens, our environment and our economy. Maintaining air quality is critical to the health of our citizens, our future growth, prosperity and quality of life.”

In other town news, Granite Quarry Elementary School Principal Catherine Hinson shared with aldermen and the crowd in attendance a brief presentation on the school’s academic progress in recent years.

Hinson came to the town board’s meeting at the invitation of Conrad and Mayor Bill Feather, who were among about 100 people from the community who visited the school recently and saw the same presentation.

Hinson shared numbers showing the school’s improvement in teacher effectiveness and how they are meeting or exceeding growth in all subjects. Hinson said 11 teachers exceeded growth, which places them in the top 10 percent of the state.

The school has emphasized personalized learning and is using the Achieve 3000 program to increase student reading scores, which it has accomplished. Granite Quarry Elementary, which was graded as a “D” school in 2013 based on N.C. School Performance data, is closing in on a “B” grade thanks to improvements in growth measures.

Hinson invited everyone to visit the school at any time and see the strong instruction in progress.

“Granite Quarry is a great place to be,” she said. “I’m very honored to be part of this community.”

The 100th anniversary of the school building, constructed in 1917, is fast approaching.

Feather said during his visit he noticed how all the children were using their electronic tablets and how impressed he was with the thought process they were using on the tablets.

“In fact, they were selling us on some of the applications,” Feather said.

Hinson said a significant number of the school’s children live in poverty, and the school could always use the community’s help in buying new tennis shoes or providing other kinds of clothing for children in need.

Every Friday afternoon, 33 children go home with backpacks filled with food for the weekend, Hinson noted. Feather said Town Hall could be available as a drop-off point for clothing donations for the school.

In other business, Conrad recommended acceptance of a bid of $5,100 from Mid Carolina Construction for providing a driveway entrance from Faith Road to the town property it plans to develop for youth athletic activities.

Alderman Arin Wilhelm said the “Granite Quarry Athletic Club” has been founded and is close to having its articles of incorporation and bylaws. The newly formed club will be an all-volunteer organization, and it is still looking for members, Wilhelm said.

For now, plans are to start with disc golf and youth soccer on the Faith Road property, Wilhelm said. The future also could hold lacrosse, and Wilhelm said the club wants to have working relationships with the YMCA and Youth Football League.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the town’s new maintenance supervisor, Baxter “Buddy” Miller, introduced two new employees for the town maintenance department: Trevor Sculley and Cody Baxter.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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