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County will buy temperature check tunnel for courthouse

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the purchase of a temperature checking tunnel from Integro Technologies that will be stationed at the Rowan County Courthouse.

The automatic temperature checking tunnel will cost $32,500 and will be paid for using money from the coronavirus relief funds.

Three temperature checking tunnels were requested for the courthouse, but commissioners only approved the purchase of one tunnel after discussions about the cost and necessity of the tunnels. The tunnel in the courthouse will replace the manual handheld temperature checking devices that are currently being used at an entrance.

At previous meetings, several commissioners said that they were dubious of the need for the temperature checking tunnels. That skepticism was present during Monday’s meeting. Commissioner Craig Pierce expressed his doubts that the need for the temperature checking tunnels outweighed the cost.

“I’ve got a little angst on spending this money for something that’s only going to be around for a short period of time,” said Pierce, who mentioned that a COVID-19 vaccine is going to be distributed soon.

Commissioner Jim Greene said that his biggest concern about purchasing the tunnels was that it wouldn’t altogether eliminate the need for a staff member to be stationed at the door to check temperatures, even though the tunnel would check them automatically.

Commissioner Judy Klusman, who also serves on the Rowan County Board of Public Health, said that the coronavirus is here to stay.

“COVID is never going away,” Klusman said. “COVID will be here with us for years and years to come. I don’t like spending any more money, but from the perspective of not needing it after the vaccine comes out, I would really caution us on that.”

Klusman said that, even though the vaccine is being distributed to select people starting this month, some people will not receive it “until August” and that some people are already refusing to get it.

Board of Commissioners Chair Greg Edds said that he didn’t support purchasing three tunnels, which would have cost $97,500, but that he did think one was sufficient. Caskey echoed that viewpoint and said “we’re not there everyday and those are the folks there who are asking for it.”

Rowan County Finance Director Jim Howden reported during the meeting that the county is projected to exhaust all $5.32. million of the coronavirus relief funding it received from the federal government. The county is projected to spend $1.7 million in COVID-19 relief funds in December, Howden said.

County Manager Aaron Church told commissioners during the meeting that the expiring funds will result in several programs being stopped. Church said that “spending $173,000 a month on (COVID-19) testing is not something that is sustainable without additional stimulus” and cautioned commissioners that a special meeting may have to be called if there is no action on a stimulus bill at the federal level before the end of 2020.

While the cost of the temperature checking tunnel and its installation will be paid for using coronavirus relief funding, the yearly maintenance costs to upkeep the machine will likely come from the county’s budget in the future.

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