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For second time, commissioners to discuss school Apple lease

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — On Monday, the school system’s lease with Apple Inc. could again spark feisty debate or none at all when it appears in front of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

The lease would provide computers and iPads for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. It would last three years and cost $14.5 million over that period. During a meeting on March 6, Commissioner Craig Pierce engaged in a tense debate with School Board Chairman Josh Wagner about the lease.

After commissioners delayed consideration at the March 6 meeting, they will consider the idea for a second time at 6 p.m. Monday in the county administration building — 130 West Innes Street.

Commissioners have placed the Apple lease on Monday’s consent agenda, usually used for items with unanimous support. It could stay on the consent agenda and receive no discussion. It could also be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. Pierce promised in a now-deleted Facebook post that he wasn’t done with the Apple lease. In the post, he alleged “possible kickbacks” related to the lease but provided no additional information. He also said teachers are being held responsible for the “failed policies” of the school system.

“I hope we will have a great turnout at our next meeting and all the sheeple teachers will show up to protest anyone questioning them about wasting taxpayer dollars,” Pierce wrote in the post. “And to anyone that want to criticize me, be a man, not a punk, and say it to my face and hopefully within arms length. More to come.”

Pierce confirmed the Facebook post was authentic and said he deleted the post after being contacted by Wagner.

When asked about the “possible kickbacks” allegation, Wagner dismissed the ideas as ridiculous.

“It’s not even a question that can really be raised,” Wagner said. “We’re talking about Apple here and the thought that they would even get caught up in something like that for our business is silly.”

He said the lease is “basically the same” as it was three years ago, when the school system first picked Apple for technology products. Wagner said the overall cost may be higher, but the per-item cost is lower. As a result of the cost-per-unit decrease, Wagner said it’s possble student and parents could see a decrease in the user fee.

He said the Rowan-Salisbury School System is not requesting any county funds to pay for the lease. The county, however, needs to give its approval.

Since the March 6 meeting, Rowan County Chief Information Officer Randy Cress also reviewed and endorsed the proposed Apple lease.

“They are using market timings to capitalize on the buy-back valuation of existing equipment while receiving the lowest costs for new hardware, software and professional services to implement a holistic solution for all teachers and students in the RSSS program,” Cress wrote in a memo about the Apple lease.

Pierce said he and Wagner had a conversation about the post and the Apple lease recently. Pierce said he still intends to vote against the lease but feels better about it after having more time to discuss it with Wagner and read school system documents.

Pierce said he will ask for the Apple lease to be pulled off the consent agenda “just to express my concerns about the entire issue.”

“It’s going to be an entertaining Monday, I promise you,” Pierce said.

In other business on Monday’s agenda:

• Rowan County commissioners will discuss applying for a minority youth violence prevention grant, which could provide significant amounts of money over four years.

If awarded, the grant would provide $325,000 to $425,000 per year, for four years. The grant application will involve a partnership between the Rowan County Health Department, Department of Social Services, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Salisbury Police Department, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and others.

If awarded, the funds would be focused on reducing violent crime among minority youth ages 12 to 18, according to Monday’s agenda. A grant opportunity summary states Rowan County’s involved agencies would need to create a program to serve at least 50 participants. It also needs to include a six-week summer program.

Rowan County would find out whether it has received in the grant in June.

•  As part of the consent agenda, commissioners are scheduled to approve a $1.3 million contract to replace remaining portions of the roof at West End Plaza.

County staff has recommended Johnson’s Roofing Service be awarded a contract for roof repairs. The company submitted the lowest bid — $1.31 million.

The repairs will be in addition to repairs already made to West End Plaza’s roof. In January, figures provided by the county showed $2.3 million had been spent on repairs at the former mall, much of which went to roof work.

• Commissioners will consider a purchase offer for .396 acres of land on Julian Road.

EVG Associates is making an offer for $8,597. Previously, county commissioners approved the sale of 10.68 acres to the company. The additional land would be located adjacent to already purchased land.

County commissioners will discuss hangar fees and policies at the Rowan County Airport. The discussion will set leasing rates for the second corporate hangar at the airport. The corporate hanger is nearly completed.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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