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Rowan County’s Declaration of Interdependence gets final approval

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — After months of work, commissioners Chairman Greg Edds and Vice Chairman Jim Greene have secured all necessary approvals for the Rowan County Declaration of Interdependence.

The final approval — from the Board of Commissioners itself on Monday — comes in time for a community meeting on June 23 and the kickoff of the Growing Rowan initiative.

The declaration received support from all 10 municipalities in the county. The declaration lists a number of standards for the behavior of elected officials. Examples include disclosing conflicts of interest, resolving controversies quickly and privately, and collaborating across traditional boundaries.

Edds and Greene started traveling to municipalities last year to obtain support for the document, which is related to the Growing Rowan initiative. At Monday’s meeting, Edds said he wants to set up a framework for residents to collaborate and solve local problems.

“I think folks are looking to us not as parents but looking to us to lead,” Edds said. “That’s what we’re trying to do — to lead by example and also to try to get out in front of the community and show that this county needs to take its rightful place in this region in education, in the economy and in every way we can think of.”

Edds said Rowan County has its fair share of problems, but it’s in a better position than many other communities. He said that’s especially true when it comes to the economy.

“I think about small communities across the United States who really have nothing, no offense to them,” Edds said. “They’re trying to figure out how to cope with a modernizing economy.”

He listed assets including natural resources, an arts community, colleges, shopping and a location between Greensboro and Charlotte.

“So, if they were to hire one of us as a consultant and ask, ‘Where do we begin?’ I’d shake my head and say to those communities, ‘I don’t know where you begin,’” Edds said. “There are 10,000 communities that would trade places with us in a heartbeat.”

Starting with the Declaration of Interdependence and continuing with the Growing Rowan initiative, Edds says he hopes to gather residents to focus on solving problems in specific areas.

Edds and Greene encountered little, if any, opposition to the idea as they visited the municipalities. Kenny Hardin was the lone member of the Salisbury City Council to vote against the declaration. County Commissioner Craig Pierce was the lone member of his board to vote against it. Both expressed similar sentiments when describing their opposition.

“I think it’s totally redundant,” Pierce said. “What is stated in that document is what we do as commissioners to start with, and I just felt like it was just unnecessary. To me, when you vote on unnecessary resolutions, you diminish the other resolutions that you pass.”

Pierce didn’t publicly speak about his opposition at Monday’s commissioners meeting but he offered his thoughts when asked afterward.

“I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because when you run for the office of a commissioner, you run for all the citizens and all the municipalities,” Pierce said. “I didn’t get involved in making a big statement. I’ll just say that I don’t think we need to be voting on resolutions that, at the end of the day, have no merit.”

Commissioner Mike Caskey asked a few questions about the declaration after a presentation by Edds. One question was the exact meaning of a statement about resolving controversies quietly. Caskey asked whether that statement is intended to stifle free speech.

“No one, let me repeat, no one is asking anyone to stifle their opinions,” Edds responded. “I think we’ve seen in the past — whether it’s municipalities, county commissions or school boards — we get into these personal arguments. We get into things, we begin to attack folks personally.”

Edds said some people in Rowan County enjoy making personal attacks.

“Ninety-nine percent of folks don’t like that,” he said. “They want us to do our job. They want us to represent them well, and they want the private sniping to stay private. They don’t want that up here behind the microphone.”

Caskey also asked whether the county commissioners would give up any of their authority to another governing board. Edds said no.

After further discussion, the commissioners approved the declaration by a 4-1 vote.

The June 23 meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. at West End Plaza. It will be open to the public.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• Commissioners approved a set of minimum standards for the Rowan County Airport.

The document sets standards for all kinds of operation. The Rowan County Airport Advisory Board has worked on the standards for a number of months.

Pierce abstained from voting on the document after expressing concern about how allowing companies to build facilities such as hangars would affect future operations at the airport.

• Commissioners heard a presentation about future land uses in an area of Rowan County adjacent to Interstate 85 that will be the focus of a county-funded water and sewer study.

• Commissioners set a public hearing for June 19 for an incentive request known as “Project Piggyback.”

The company behind the request is an existing Rowan County employer. If the county is chosen for the project, the company would create 28 jobs with an average annual salary of $33,528. The company would invest $1.1 million in construction and equipment.

• Commissioners honored Howard Platt for his years of work as a radio broadcaster.

• Commissioners approved a permit that would allow Frank Aquino to build a 1,200-square-foot residential storage facility along Hearthstrone Ridge Lane, off London Road.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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