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Cleveland school demolition prompts debate among commissioners

SALISBURY — An aging elementary school deemed “surplus” property by Rowan-Salisbury Schools in January drew conflicting opinions Monday among the Rowan County commissioners about what to do next.

Cleveland Elementary School was one of three schools, along with Patterson School in China Grove and Woodleaf Elementary School, considered during Monday’s meeting. Demolition was discussed for two of the three. Rowan-Salisbury Schools plans to draft an agreement for the Price of Freedom Museum to continue to operate at the former Patterson School.

The school system was offering commissioners the right of first refusal for the properties. The commissioners tabled a decision about whether to accept the Woodleaf property or choose to declare it surplus, too, and released any interest in the Patterson School property.

Commissioners eventually voted to accept the Cleveland property after the school system demolishes some parts of the facility, but that decision didn’t come without some discussion about whether the kitchen could be saved for use by an unnamed group.

The commissioners are pursuing turning Cleveland Elementary’s former media center into a new west branch of the Rowan Public Library. An EMS station is another idea for another part of the building not set for demolition.

Anthony Vann, assistant superintendent for operations of the school system, told commissioners the cost of demolishing the Cleveland site will come from money included in the school board’s capital fund balance.

“We have a contractor in place, and we asked them to stay on hold until we could get this worked out, but we do not have a firm date,” said Vann. “We keep pushing it back, and now we have to get back on the schedule.”

Commissioner Judy Klusman expressed concern Monday about voting to give the “go-ahead” to tear down Cleveland Elementary, asking the commissioners to table the matter until their next meeting, on March 18. That would give her time to speak with a “consortium” that, she said, has shown interest in the kitchen and dining area located on the property.

“I’d like to just go back to this group I’m talking to one more time and just see where they’re at in their thinking,” Klusman said.

After hearing additional comments from other board members in favor of moving ahead with the project, Chairman Greg Edds disagreed with Klusman’s recommendation to delay the demolition for an additional two weeks.

“I think we need to get going,” Edds said.

Edds went on to concede he would support Klusman’s motion on the grounds of courtesy for a fellow commissioner. Then, Klusman abruptly withdrew her motion.

Shortly after that, the commissioners voted to release any interest in the Patterson School property and accept the Cleveland property after partial demolition.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

• The board approved a resolution granting $1.3 million to be used for facility improvements in the Kannapolis City Schools and turf at A.L. Brown High School’s football stadium.

• The board approved a request from Dr. Corrie Connolly to rezone her property at 2355 Brown Road, which will be used as a facility for her large veterinary practice.

• The name Hidden View Lane was given to a driveway at the 1500 block of Hobson Road.

• A  6.16-acre parcel at the intersection of Statesville Blvd. and Old U.S. 70 was rezoned rural residential to accommodate a home being built at the back of the property.

• A parcel in the 800 block of Ritchie Road was approved as for commercial, business and industrial zoning.

• Technical services librarian Edward Hirst gave a presentation about how to access and use Overdrive, the Rowan Public Library’s digital collection.

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