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Commissioners give give go-ahead for bids on COVID-19 construction

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday took a step toward upgrading the county’s facilities to comply with new health guidelines.

The board of commissioners approved phase one of the plan created by Pete Bogle, of the Bogle Architectural Firm. Bogle had been charged with setting up a task force and evaluating each and every county facility to determine what improvements needed to be made. Along with inspecting each facility, Bogle’s team also interviewed staff and department directors.

Bogle laid out his comprehensive plan for the commissioners during the meeting. The plan seeks to minimize shared, touched surfaces, provide sanitation options for the public and create separations from the public and county employees, among other measures. The plan is one part of $3.95 million in COVID-19 relief funding for projects in county government, with $1.04 million of that amount going toward general construction for county departments.

He split his plan into two phases, each of which will have a different bidding process and timeline. Both phases, however, must be completed by Dec. 31. 

Phase one, known as common solutions, will include implementing smaller items that don’t require major changes to the facilities. An example would be installing a hand sanitizer station or placing antibacterial tape on door knobs. Phase two, known as design solutions, includes improvements that will require design and more construction. 

“A lot of this stuff is boiling down to the same elements, minimizing same touch surfaces in facilities,” Bogle said.

Bogle asked the commissioners to approve phase one so that bidding among contractors for the project can begin soon. The sooner the contractors can begin, the higher likelihood they have of being able to order needed materials, Bogle said.

“The earlier we can get our orders in for these things the better,” Bogle said. “These are the ones we want to push out as quickly as possible.”

Commissioner Judy Klusman voiced concern about having the improvements made in time for early voting in the upcoming election. She encouraged Bogle to prioritize the needs of polling facilities in his plan.

“Their needs would be prioritized,” Klusman said. “I hope we can get all of the polling stations as well. A lot of polling stations are fire departments and libraries and things like that. That’s something we can look a little closer at.”

Bogle will present the bids to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Sept. 8. The commissioners will consider approval of phase two at a future meeting as well.

Financial report

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners were also presented with a financial report for the 2020 fiscal year. The financial report was presented by Assistant County Manager and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick.

The Rowan County general fund received $87.7 million in property taxes in 2020, which accounted for 103% of the budgeted amount. It was a significant increase from 2019, when $80.7 million was collected. That was because of reevaluation, Heidrick said. Commissioners also chose not to stick with a revenue-neutral tax rate, which contributed to the tax revenue increase.

“It was a good year even though property tax collections did slow down during April, May and June,” Heidrick said.

Sales taxes were up 5.9% from last year, which is almost what the county budgeted for. Heidrick said she was pleased the sales tax dip during the spring wasn’t as bad as expected.

“In the month of April, when we were sheltered in place, you can see we had to decrease, we still had a slight increase over the same month a year ago,” Heidrick said. “It was basically flat, which I consider a win because we were sheltered in place.”

The commissioners discussed the importance of keeping track of COVID-19 relief funding as it continues to come in.

Call to action

At the end of the meeting, Klusman made a plea for people to volunteer to work the polls in the upcoming election.

“One thing that I would like to raise. The elections board is desperately in need of poll voters, especially for early voting,” Klusman said. “I don’t recall exactly when that’s going to start … If you are at all interested, you can work a whole day or half a day. You will be compensated. Please consider that because a lot of our older poll workers will not work this year because of the virus.”

In other business:

• The commissioners approved the new construction on a 3,522-square-foot facility to serve as an office and concession stand facility for Rowan County at Dan Nicholas Park, including adjacent parking improvements, an exterior patio and other related items.

• The commissioners approved the request from County Manager Aaron Church to waive the adopted rate schedule for the Northeastern Rowan Water Line and leave the rate the same for the fiscal year 2020-21. The current rate is $71.09, which provides each customer up to 5,000 gallons a month in potable water. Every gallon after the 5,000 gallons is $6.59 per 1,000 gallons.

• The commissioners approved the rental of the county-owned West End Plaza for events that are retail in nature and have vendors who can operate in compliance with Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order. This includes the upcoming Salisbury Gun and Knife show, which is scheduled to be held at West End Plaza on Sept. 19-20.

• The board approved several foster and adult care contracts. Among them were contracts for Clear Sky, Nazareth Children’s Home, Children’s Homes of Iredell County, American Children’s Home, Thompson Child, Coltrane LIFE Center and Family Focus.

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