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County to consider naming Neely School historic landmark

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Restored in 2015, the historic Neely School could be the recipient of a new honor on Monday.

During their regularly scheduled meeting, Rowan County commissioners will consider naming the school a historic landmark. Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. in the county administration building — 130 West Innes St.

If approved, commissioners would designate the building’s interior, exterior and original site as “Rowan County Historic Landmarks.” It would join only four other sites with the distinction. Others include: Kerr Mill, the Richard Wainwright Barber Farm, Organ Zion Luther Church and Peter Kern House.

In a memo to commissioners, the Rowan County Historic Landmarks Commission says Neely School deserves the honor because it’s one of the state’s few surviving one-room, African-American schools from the early 1900s. The N.C. Historic Preservation Office said it also supports making the site a historic landmark.

“The HLC deems the Historic Neely School to be of special significance in terms of its historical and cultural importance, and to possess integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials and character,” wrote Historic Landmarks Commission Chairwoman Karen Lily-Bowyer.

Built in 1908 by Julius Neely, the school taught hundreds of students during its operation. The school used one teacher at a time and served students from first through seventh grades.

In 2011, Neely’s grandchildren formed the Historic Neely School foundation in order to restore the building. In 2014, contractors pulled the school from its original home — among trees and brush on Neelytown Road — to a site more visible from the road. Now renovated, the school is featured on this year’s OctoberTour. It’s also the subject of a new book released to coincide with the tour.

The Historic Neely School Foundation hopes to build a welcome center, playground, picnic shelter and parking lot at the site, according to a report submitted to the county.

If county commissioners approve the Neely School application, the 470-square-foot building could not be moved, demolished or materially altered without a certificate of appropriateness from the Rowan County Historic Landmark Commission.

In other business on Monday:

• Commissioners are scheduled to approve a contract with local architectural firm Ramsay Burgin Smith to oversee construction of a west Rowan County library.

The contract, for $30,000, appears on commissioners’ consent agenda. The amount is identical to what commissioners budgeted for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Commissioners have only allocated money for an architect to draft designs for the library, planned for the site of Cleveland Elementary School. The exact cost of construction has no been determined, but the Rowan Public Library director requested $500,700 in his 2017-2018 budget request — half of which was one-time expenses for construction. The remainder would pay for staff and operating expenses.

• Commissioners will schedule a public hearing for Nov. 6 to consider an incentive request for a project that could create up to 118 jobs.

The name of the employer is not clear, but the Rowan Economic Development Commission provided some details in a request to hold the public hearing.

Revealed details include that the company is an existing employer, would create between 108 and 118 new jobs, would invest more than $10 million dollars in new construction and equipment. Commissioners will consider scheduling the public hearing as part of their consent agenda.

• Commissioners will hold a public hearing for and considering approving transportation grant applications.

If approved, the grants would provide the following to Rowan Transit: $181,388 for two positions, travel, communications, utilities, insurance and office expenses; $438,860 for capital equipment; $221,000 for dialysis transportation and service to Rowan Vocational Opportunities and Trinity Living Center; $80,000 for the Rowan Express; and $942,258 for Bus and Bus facilities.

Contact Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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