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City Park Vietnam veterans memorial receives first of two approvals

SALISBURY — Eight years after starting an effort to erect a Vietnam veterans memorial, philanthropist Ronnie Smith got a win Monday night when the Rowan County Commissioners approved an agreement that would provide $10,000 in funding.

The agreement, which was added to the agenda during Monday’s meeting, still requires approval from the Salisbury City Council before the monument can be erected in its proposed location — at the intersection of West Miller and North Jackson streets and near a World War II memorial in City Park. But Smith said he spoke with Mayor Al Heggins last week and that she supports the project.

The monument contains the names of 40 men who died while serving in a branch of the military in Vietnam. Smith said the monument will be about 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall once erected and is made of granite.

Smith, who served in Vietnam with the Air Force, said the project is personally meaningful because he knew many of the men whose names are on the wall. That it’s been eight years since he started raising money also made Monday’s unanimous vote by the county commissioners an exciting moment.

The monument itself cost $50,000. Installation costs haven’t been determined, but Smith said companies such as Taylor Clay Products have volunteered to provide bricks as an in-kind donation. The agreement states Salisbury Marble and Granite will also make an in-kind donation to the project.

For about two years leading up to Monday, the monument has been in a South Carolina warehouse waiting for its final home. It’s unclear exactly when the monument will be placed.

Rowan County’s only commitment in the agreement approved Monday is to provide as much as $10,000 to raise the elevation for the Rowan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the same height as a World War II monument at the same location.

While the agreement states Smith is responsible for all costs for engineering, construction, materials and installation, the city of Salisbury, if the council approves the document, would agree that the elevation of the Vietnam memorial’s base be of equal height to the World War II monument, that the lighting of the two monuments will be consistent, that a tennis shed and pet waste station near the site will be removed, and that landscaping will be completed within 60 days of installation.

Speaking during Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Mike Caskey said the Vietnam memorial would be meaningful for many veterans in Rowan County.

Smith said he’s unsure when the city will consider the agreement.

In other business:

• As part of their consent agenda, the Rowan County commissioners voted to accept a request from the Rowan County Tourism Authority to delay the start of repayment for a Railwalk Pavilion project in downtown Salisbury.

A letter from Tourism Authority CEO James Meacham states that an unexpected soil stabilization issue at the site added $65,000 to the project. As a result, only the first phase has been completed. A structure has not been built.

In an effort to complete the project during the current fiscal year, Meacham asked commissioners to delay the first payment to May 2020.

The Tourism Authority would then pay $70,000 to the county each year for five years — a total of $350,000.

The commissioners added the request to their agenda Monday and approved it unanimously as part of the consent agenda.

• Cornerstone Church Pastor Bill Godair spoke during the public-comment period to clarify that he had spent more than $10,000 in support of the commissioners’ prayer lawsuit.

The commissioners, whose appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, were ordered to pay $285,000 to the North Carolina ACLU for attorney fees in the case, which started in 2013. Godair had promised to donate $10,000 to the county to pay for the case, but Godair said he was told by then-Chairman Jim Sides that the county could not accept the money.

On Monday, Godair said that he felt as if his character had been attacked following the final resolution of the case because people questioned whether he had, in fact, spent the money.

Godair said people didn’t ask him for his opinion before raising questions about whether he spent the money and questioned whether that qualified as “fake news” or “lying news.”

Godair brought documents with him Monday stating that he and Cornerstone Church spent $11,045 supporting the lawsuit, including paying for several billboards.

“And we would do it again,” Godair said.

• The commissioners received a presentation from Smart Start Rowan in which representatives of the agency described their work and a “Where’s Dolly?” campaign, which is meant to bring awareness to an Imagination Library program.

• The board approved the county’s Jail Health Plan as part of the consent agenda.

The plan must be approved by the commissioners and contains no significant changes from the prior year.

• The commissioners set a number of zoning hearings for March 4, ranging from a proposed veterinary business on Brown Road — near Millbridge Elementary School — to a rezoning that would allow for an events business on Ritchie Road.

• Setting a public hearing on March 4 to consider a $1.4. million financing proposal for Kannapolis City Schools. Bids for the loan were to be received by 2 p.m Monday.

• The board approved a $39,792.82 contract with engineering firm Talbert, Bright and Ellington for tree clearing and grading at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport for skydiving operations.

It approved a $273,486 contract with Rifenburg Construction for tree clearing and grading at the airport.

• The commissioners voted to asked County Manager Aaron Church to negotiate down the price for a $149,341 radio communications consulting contract with Federal Engineering to offer recommendations for the future of the local telecommunications system.



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