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At retreat, city officials hear upcoming projects, needs

SALISBURY — During the second day of the city council retreat, members heard about upcoming projects and the need for upgrades to several city buildings and facilities.

Fire Chief Bob Parnell spoke about Fire Station No. 6, which is currently under construction on Cedar Springs Road, and the future construction of Fire Station No. 3, at 150 Mahaley Ave.

Construction on No. 6 is behind schedule because of weather, with 60% of the building completed and 40% of the site completed. Construction was expected to be finished in January, but Parnell gave April 26 as the new target date.

“Nonetheless, we are very excited about it,” Parnell said. “It will be an excellent building, one that the city fire department, the city itself and the citizens will be very proud of.”

The fire station in southern Salisbury was essential for Salisbury to hold its fire rating of two, with one being considered the best rating. Everything south of Airport Road was beyond the acceptable response distance, he said. The facility will cover residential buildings and industrial sites.

It will also aid growth in the southern part of the city, he said.

“This is a significant investment because of its location,” Parnell said. The strategically placed station is ready for “growth in our city — 1.5 miles and beyond certainly hits our coverage to Webb Road, north of Webb Road and out to the interstate easily, should you be enticed to cover any growth out there.”

Station No. 6 will be named “Justin Monroe and Vic Isler Fire Station and Fire Academy” after two firefighters who died in a 2008 fire.

Parnell also talked about the future Fire Station No. 3, which will replace a station built on a landfill in 1956. Because of the soft, poor soil underneath, the building has structural problems.

“It’s getting to be called the fun house,” Parnell said.

The station also has no facilities for female firefighters. He said remodeling is not an option because fire stations are considered essential buildings that need to withstand wind sheer, tornadoes and floods.

The city has already acquired and cleared a lot on 150 Mahaley Ave. The project costs are projected at a minimum of $5 million.

“This is a need,” Parnell said. “We call it an essential building. It’s an important need for our community and our response by moving around the corner. We reduce our response time from the northern end of the city by a minute or two and we cover more facilities in our 1.5 mile circle.”

When Councilman David Post asked when construction would begin, Parnell replied he intended it to start last month. It is currently slated for July in the Capital Improvement Plan, but Parnell said that may be pushed back a year.

Both Mayor Karen Alexander and Post said construction costs will likely keep going up.

Alexander said she was in favor of going on as planned, if possible.

“We’ve known for years that this fire station is sinking and would just like it if we could move forward,” Alexander said. “I don’t think it’s going to get any less expensive if you wait for a year. If we can put the financing together to make it more efficient, perhaps that’s a way to go.”

The council tasked the Finance Department to look into combining the payment for Fire Station No. 6 with the loan for No. 3.

Facilities needs

Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves followed up with council members about the department’s master plan that was presented at the Jan. 7 City Council meeting.

Aceves said a multi-use center could tackle some of the lingering facilities issues, increase program and space opportunities, and increase efficiencies.

Aceves said a multi-use center could positively affect revenues. Because the Civic Center cannot be upgraded, fewer people are interested in renting it, he said. He added Parks and Recreation did not want to price citizens out of the facilities.

Looming projects include work to make the Civic Center ADA compliant, a cooling room for lifeguards at the Fred M. Evans Pool and continued asset development, like the Bell Tower Green park.

The Hall Gym floor needs to be redone soon, too.

Public Services Director Craig Powers said the department has identified $2 million in repairs at facilities. He said the Plaza needs reroofing and elevator repairs. Parking lots at the facilities need to be repaved. The fleet vehicles and equipment need to have additional storage.

Powers said he would like to have more public services under one roof. He is also looking at ways to improve ADA compliance along with reducing the department’s carbon footprint.

Transit master plan

City Manager Lane Bailey showed a photo he took earlier in the week of a shopping cart at the entrance of Hidden Creek. The closest grocery store is more than a mile away. It could be a prank, but Bailey said he thought it was someone without transportation going to the grocery store and walking back.

Bailey said people living inside the city limits need transit. He said it bothers him some cannot be served by existing offerings.

Salisbury Transit covers the city, Spencer and East Spencer. The two neighboring towns do not pay for Salisbury Transit services and that extension costs the city $105,000 of its $800,000 budget.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield asked about the possibility of getting grant money or sponsorships from businesses to help with costs.

“That’s a tough call to say we’re going to cut services,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said many in East Spencer and Spencer come to Salisbury to do their shopping or for work.

She is in favor of partnering with the town’s leaders and other stakeholders to find some solutions.

Alexander reiterated that Spencer and East Spencer may be able to qualify for grants to pay for the service because they are considered rural.

The City Council Planning Retreat ended early on Friday afternoon so council members and staff could attend a funeral. The council recessed the meeting until Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. in City Council Chambers where they will develop their priorities for 2020.

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