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City Council says it’s ‘fully behind’ Knox-Overton community

SALISBURY — A day after a Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting where a crowd came to voice its concerns on the proposed closing of Overton Elementary School, the Salisbury City Council on Tuesday said it is “fully behind” the Overton-Knox community. 

Corey Hill, a parent, presented a resolution to the council through email a couple of hours before the start of the meeting. The resolution was intended to show the council’s support for a K-8 school in Salisbury, combining Overton Elementary and Knox Middle schools, instead of Overton’s demolition.

The school board is considering a $26 million plan to renovate Knox Middle that would also result in Overton’s closure.

Hill’s resolution stated, “The Salisbury City Council strongly supports and urges our Rowan-Salisbury school board and our Rowan County cCommissioners to move forward with the building of a K-8 school located on the land between the Knox Middle and Overton Elementary schools.”

The resolution further stated the proposed school closing would be potentially detrimental to the children and families and could contribute to the breakdown of the community.

Multiple council members said they did not have time to read the resolution before the meeting but were supportive of the two Salisbury schools. Councilman Brian Miller was absent and the council collectively decided it was best to push off the discussion to the Dec. 3 meeting to include Miller, study the resolution and hold a public hearing.

Mayor Al Heggins spoke at the school board meeting on Monday and said her sentiments remain the same: The community can’t function well without good schools.

Heggins said a K-8 school is “long overdue” and that the Knox-Overton community deserves some attention and, more important, some financial investment.

Schools and the economy go hand in hand, said Mayor Pro Tem David Post. The worst thing for a city to do is take schools away. The council needs to be strong to prevent Overton’s closure, Post said. 

“The most critical factor is a strong school system is what drives people to live in the community,” Post said.

Jonathan Chamberlain, a parent of an Overton student, commended the City Council members for showing up at the Monday school board meeting. Chamberlain said he looks forward to working with the council, Rowan County commissioners and the RSS board to “make the city of Salisbury and Rowan County a more attractive place for the businesses we want to come here and for the people” with a K-8 school.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said she was a product of a K-8 school in Tennessee and in the first kindergarten class of that school. Sheffield stood to show her support for working to do something positive for Salisbury schools, adding they have been left behind.

“I don’t want to speak for anybody, but (the City Council) is fully behind you doing the right thing for all of our children,” she said.

Sheffield said she wants parents, kids and teachers to know the council believes in a good Salisbury school system.

Councilwoman Karen Alexander, who attended Monday’s school board meeting, said she saw the passion the students, teachers, parents and staff of the schools had.

“A message that came out very strong for me was that these individuals, out of love for their fellow students and despite differences, that they loved each other and weren’t seeing poverty or race,” Alexander said. “That is a model for our community.”

Other business:

• The council approved a construction bid to begin the widening of Newsome Road, which will include bike lanes and, on one side, sidewalks.

Construction will begin Feb. 15 and be divided into three sections. The time frame for the project is 425 days.

The contractor will provide access for local traffic.

The bid went to J.T. Russell & Sons for $2.17 million

The city has budgeted for this fiscal year $1.88 for this project. This includes offsetting Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality revenue of $1.51 million

The city expects to get $900,000 from the N.C. Department of Transportation for the widening project.

Sheffield said she wrote one note next to the project: “yea.”

Alexander said this was a “yea” and is about four years in the making.

• The First Lego League teams at Overton Elementary presented their projects.

They had to find a Salisbury building and propose a future use of it. Led by Jessica Tucker, the elementary design coordinator at Overton Elementary, the students worked with the Salisbury Planning Department staff. The first team proposed the vacant building at 215 E. Innes St. be turned into a teen arts center. The second team proposed the 1820 W. Innes St. building be converted to a greenhouse and a smash house.

• The council approved the final subdivision plat for The Gables at Kepley Farm. Phase 5, accepted the streets in the complex for city maintenance and began a one-year warranty period for those streets. The approval is subjected to the voluntary annexation of the property, which is currently in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city.

• The council approved a contract with Hanes Construction for various repaving. The estimated cost is $494,860, and the city budgeted $500,000.



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