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County to spend $3.95 million in COVID-19 relief funds on local projects

SALISBURY — Roughly $3.95 million in COVID-19 relief funding will be spent on projects ranging from converting doors to automatically opening to creating a special team of paramedics who help people who have tested positive, according to a plan approved by Rowan County commissioners on Monday. 

The plan allocated federal funding administered by the state that’s specifically designated for local governments. The county received $5.32 million in total funding and set aside $1.37 million for municipalities. The remaining portion will go toward county government projects or those selected by county staff.

Within $1.04 million for general construction for county departments is a project to convert all doors at West End Plaza to automatically opening. Currently, all doors to enter the county-owned building and the departments within are opened manually. 

County Manager Aaron Church described that project and others in the general construction areas as being “things that directly relate to COVID-19 that will hopefully reduce transmission in the county.” 

Church said there will also be renovations to offices in the county’s building at 402 North Main St., where the register of deeds, tax office, building inspections and planning department are located.

The county’s funding plan also spends $112,500 to create four positions called COVID community paramedics. In the plan, the four employees will check on and provide support to people who have tested positive and have not been in the hospital or have been discharged and would like to participate. 

The paramedics would go to individual residences, conduct an evaluation and potentially schedule future visits to provide basic services.

Church said people who test positive or have been discharged from the hospital would not be automatically enrolled. 

Commissioner Mike Caskey on Monday asked about an estimated $317,000 that’s planned for telework expansion. Assistant County Manager Randy Cress said that money will pay for laptop purchases and phones as well as enable a solution for employees to use their work numbers when calling from a personal cellphone or laptop.

More specific funded items are as follows:

• Architect fees: $63,167

• General construction for county departments: $1.04 million

• General construction for courthouse facilities: $465,000

• Grant administration position: $42,000

• Direct COVID-19 employee pay expenses: $550,000

This money would be used to reimburse the county for employee pay if the person’s job duties are substantially focused on COVID-19.

• County COVID-19-related FMLA / sick pay: $150,000

• $13,600 for the Department of Social Services, including $6,000 for a check-in system, $2,400 for sneeze guards, $3,000 for housing and food for adult wards who become homeless and $2,200 for splash guards

• $783,219 million for the Health Department, including $435,933 for additional staffing, $212,500 for COVID-19 testing, $26,400 for consultant and contract services, $21,600 for school nurses to help with investigations and contact tracing, $11,171 for a high performance lab freezer and other expenses for equipment and supplies.

• $466,970 for information technology, including $200,000 for telework expansion, $10,070 for paperwork reduction, $6,900 for public awareness, $200,000 for broadband and $50,000 for “Zoom rooms.”

• $386,622 for Emergency Services, including $250,000 for protective equipment, $112,500 for community paramedics, $13,222 for a food storage unit, $5,000 for an expense labeled “homeless” and a combined $5,900 for software and hardware. 

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners approved tax incentives for an economic development project with the codename Project Sun — in which an existing employer would create 56 new jobs over three years with an average pay of about $44,000 and invest $45 million.

The approval is now subject to a 24-hour public comment period before becoming final.

Rowan Economic Development Commission President Scott Shelton called the business “a very large employer” that has an international presence. The parent company is considering an expansion to increase speeds of production lines, with 40 of the new employees being production operators.

Other facilities being considered are Ohio and Louisiana. 

Rowan County’s approved incentive agreement would collect $306,560 in new tax revenue during the incentive term and provide incentive grants totaling $919,678, which are provided as reimbursements of taxes paid.

The county also agreed to apply for a building reuse grant to help the project.

Shelton said a decision about whether Rowan County has been chosen is expected in mid-October.

• Commissioners approved a lengthy consent agenda that included requesting an investigation by the Wildlife Resources Commission about the establishment of a no-wake zone near the Tamarac Marina; purchasing 14 vehicles for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and one vehicle for the Environmental Management department; approving engineering services in the amount of $12,800 with S.E. Collins Consulting Engineers related to HVAC and Electrical design to replace an HVAC system at the EOC/Agricultural Building on Old Concord Road; approving one-time signing bonuses of up to $5,000 per vacancy to assist in filling some critical need positions in the Environmental Health Department, Food and Lodging Division; as well as authorizing County Manager Aaron Church to refund deposits for any rentals of the West End Plaza Event Center if the event was canceled due to COVID-19.

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