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Commissioners approve school system’s Apple renewal, radio system upgrades

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In a busy meeting on Monday, Rowan County commissioners approved a request from Rowan-Salisbury Schools to renew a technology contract with Apple, started the process of upgrading the county radio system and moved to Rowan Transit system away from contractors.

Jim Greene, Mike Caskey and Greg Edds were the only commissioners present at Monday’s meeting as Edds said Craig Pierce and Judy Klusman were feeling “under the weather.” It was stressed Pierce and Klusman were not seriously ill.

The three commissioners approved the school system’s request to enter into a continued contract for capital outlay with Apple Inc. to purchase of computers, hardware, software and other related equipment for all K-12 students, teachers and building-level administrators. The lease would last until 2024 and require the Board of Education to pay Apple $3.5 million each fiscal year until 2024 — a total of $12.33 million.

At the meeting, Superintendent Lynn Moody cited the preparedness of the schools prior to two-week, state mandated closures that began this week because of the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak. Moody said RSS had the ability to deploy an iPad to all K-12 students on Monday. She said that puts the county ahead of other school districts in preparing students for virtual education and communication during the school closures.

Moody added that RSS may be the first district that can begin classes as early as Thursday.

Additionally, following a request from Telecommunications Chief Allen Cress, commissioners voted to allow administrative staff to begin the process of upgrading the county-wide radio system. The board approved a request for proposals for the replacement of approximately 1,450 new radios by the end of 2024. The radios have an estimated lifespan of 12-15 years.

County government uses requests for proposal to solicit business with outside companies for various projects.

The radio improvements would include infrastructure of the main site, located in Granite Quarry. Cress said reconfiguring the system would eliminate a single point of failure, which would maintain continuity for the county during times of natural disasters or other equipment failures. He added that improvements would also include purchasing a tower in Cleveland instead of leasing the one currently in use.

Purchasing the tower would allow the county to negotiate with service providers. The current contract with Motorola expires in December 2021.

The radio system upgrade also includes improving broadband services for rural residents in underserved communities in Cleveland.

The estimated cost for the first phase is $2.5 million, with $6.5 million for the second phase. Though, the dollar amounts can change before a final contract is agreed upon with a vendor, said County Manager Aaron Church.

In a third item, commissioners voted to move Rowan Transit services in-house by October instead of using contractors for the services. For example, drivers for the county transit system are contracted through a third-party, and moving in-house would make them county employees.

If the county continues contracting services, it would see an approximate 44% increase in the cost of those contracts for 2020-21. From now until October, the county will need to hire drivers, an operations manager and three dispatchers for the transit system.

An additional prayer was given before the particularly solemn start to Monday’s full agenda. The prayer was for the country and all the world right now during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the prayer, Edds said, “Rowan County, it’s not a time to fight. It’s a time to help each other.”

The board removed from the agenda a presentation of the West End Plaza Agricultural Center interior renderings as well as a closed session regarding a potential lease for West End Plaza.

Other items commissioners approved:

  • A revisit of updated standards regarding a six-month solar farm moratorium enacted in December. The board voted to send the revised standards back to the Planning Board, scheduled a public hearing for April 6 and extended the solar farm moratorium by another four months.
  • A quasi-judicial hearing for the April 20 meeting for a Suretha Springs Event Center intended for “veteran, community, corporate and private family events” in China Grove. The application states the event center will be on 8.19 acres, measure 5,500 square-feet and accommodate approximately 65 parking spaces. The application was filed with the Rowan County Department of Planning and Development on Feb. 24.
  • A waiver of interest in the amount of $13,112.28 for The Grand on Julian, LLC due to a billing error made by the county on the property’s tax bill. County attorney John Dees II noted in a memo that it was the county’s fault for issuing an incorrect tax bill that used an incorrect assessed value, thus generating bills for amounts less than what should have been owed. The company paid the full principal amount owed.
  • A declaration of 37 vehicles, now considered surplus property, to be sold by electronic auction.
  • Rowan Public Library’s request to use Unit D2 at West End Plaza for off-site archival storage. The archived storage would be for the Edith M. Clark History Room.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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