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Commissioners vote to use West End Plaza as relief center if needed

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Coronavirus was on the minds of Rowan County commissioners Monday night, as they took action to allow West End Plaza to be used as a relief center if needed.

The facility, the former Salisbury Mall, was purchased by county government in 2013 for $3.45 million with the intent to fill it with county government offices. So, far the facility remains mostly void of county employees. Only the Board of Elections and Veterans Services count themselves as permanent tenants. Though the county has used a former J.C. Penney’s store as an events space.

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said the size and parking lot of the West End Plaza would be ideal as a distribution center for medicines, vaccinations and a place to provide security if needed. He compared it to the VA Medical Center’s procedure of screening each individual before they enter the premises, which started on March 10. But instead of screenings, he said, a relief center would provide medicine and treatment.

“It could be a staging area for food for kids,” said Chairman Greg Edds, adding that though commissioners don’t know yet what it could be used for, “we didn’t want to go another two weeks before we would come together and be able to vote on this.”

Commissioners passed a resolution, which would allow county manager Aaron Church to work with federal, state and local entities to ensure the space could be used.

Auten said the health department would be the leading force in deciding to use the space for some sort of relief.

He referred to a point-of-distribution exercise that took place at the plaza in November in conjunction with the Rowan County Health Department. The exercise was a drive-through mock vaccination clinic. The event lasted all day, and it trained officials on how to use the space in the case of a public health emergency.

“We were hoping we don’t get to that, but you never know,” Auten said.

Edds added that the county would still need to comply with federal and state rules. On Monday, President Donald Trump recommended no more than 10 people could gather during this time.

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.

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.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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