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Commissioners green light phase two of COVID-19 protection plan

SALISBURY — In its first in-person meeting in months, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners heard details Monday afternoon about phase two of a plan to safeguard county facilities against the spread of COVID-19.

Pete Bogle, of The Bogle Architecture Firm, presented commissioners with details of the “design phase.” A plan currently being implemented at various facilities is called the “common solutions” phase. Funded by the CARES Act, the two-part plan aims to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in county facilities.

While the common solutions phase focuses primarily on easy-to-install solutions in nearly 20 county buildings, phase two will be more involved and feature the implementation of plastic barriers, communication devices and touch-free entryways. Phase two will narrow its scope to implementing solutions primarily at the courthouse, the tax office and offices at 402 N. Main St. as well as West End Plaza.

“The focus there is on providing separation between the public and the staff with a customer-friendly appearance and functionality as best we can,” Bogle said. “We want to provide that safety, but we want to make all of our facilities approachable so it doesn’t have that convenience store feel.”

The phase two plan will remain flexible throughout the process to ensure work can be completed without exceeding the budget and before the end of December, when funding is set to expire, Bogle said.

Proposed in the plan was the potential installation of automated fever detection systems. The estimated cost for one of the systems, a tunnel-like device, would be about $35,000, Bogle said.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds questioned whether the automated fever detection system would be worth the investment, since county facilities like the courthouse already have handheld thermal devices that are currently used to check temperatures.

“Do we want to invest in something that would appear to be pretty expensive hoping that next year we won’t need to be doing temperature scans?” Edds said.

Bogle said that the temperature detection systems are an alternate solution and may or may not be included in the final project, depending on budget and time constraints. There are several other alternates that will be listed in the request for bids that can be removed from the project if needed.

Also included in the phase two plan was the installation of a walk-up transaction window at the Tax Administration Office.

The commissioners approved Bogle’s request to advertise for bids for the project. The bids for the project will be presented to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners at a meeting on Oct. 19.

In other business:

• Two local nonprofit directors voiced their support during the meeting for Rowan County applying for the Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus, which is being offered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. 

Rowan County could request up to $900,000 from the grant, which is intended to help communities respond to and recover from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The grant is supposed to help provide programs that benefit low-to moderate income people.

Meals on Wheels Rowan Executive Director Cindy Fink expressed support for the county applying for the grant and detailed exactly what her organization could do with a portion of the money that may be awarded.

Fink said that their plan, called “The West End Plaza Kitchen and Transport Project,” would repurpose the vacant building that used to house K&W Cafeteria to help Meals on Wheels and other local organizations.

“The former K&W building would house a food service vendor from nine to noon in the former K&W kitchen each weekday,” Fink said. “The vendor would supply the meals delivered to homebound and congregate clients as well as schools and other nonprofit customers. Afternoon each day, the kitchen could be made available to caterers, food truck vendors, entrepreneurs, farmers and others who need to use a commercial kitchen.”

Fink wasn’t the only one who already has big plans for the grant money.

Rowan Partners for Education Executive Director Patty Overcash seconded Fink’s support of the grant application and said that her organization would also benefit greatly from funding. Overcash said that Rowan Partners for Education would use money from the grant to help support “passion projects” for students in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

“Rowan Partners for Education is requesting $40,000 from this grant to help make these students’ ideas and dreams a real possibility,” Overcash said.

Rowan County currently has an open request for proposal for grant preparation services and will hold another public hearing to gather input from citizens. That input will be considered during the grant application process.

• The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing Oct. 19 to consider an incentive request from the Rowan County Economic Development Commission regarding “Project Enterprise.” The company that could benefit from an incentive is an established manufacturer that is considering Rowan County for its new facility. The company would create 142 jobs over the next three years and would also invest $17.5 million in building improvements and equipment.

• The commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on ground-mounted solar energy farms totaling more than 6,000 square feet in total area. The new 6-month moratorium will allow the planning board more time to consider and craft advice on how the county should handle large solar farm requests in the future. The new moratorium will expire on April 6, 2021.

• Commissioners approved a contract between the Social Services Department and Carolina Family Connections for foster care.

• Commissioners approved a $128,000 bid from Ridge Mechanical to replace the HVAC system lower unit at the county’s agricultural building.

• Commissioners approved several applications for board positions, including Allen Cress for interim emergency services chief, Bradford Basinger for the vacant at-large seat on the industrial facilities and pollution control financing authority and Lena Sellers-Crook for reappointment on the nursing home advisory committee.

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