Board of Commissioners allocates $1.2 million to county fire departments

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, November 2, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday afternoon approved distributing $1.2 million to the areas rural volunteer fire departments.

Each of the county’s 23 non-municipal fire districts as well as the Rowan County Rescue Squad will receive $50,000. The money will come from American Rescue Plan funding county government received from the federal government. Rowan County will receive a total of $27 million in ARP funding in installments of $13.5 million this year and next.

“It’s a good bit of money and we felt like it was needed around the whole county instead of just parts of it,” said Mike Zimmerman, president of the Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association.

Zimmerman, also chief of Bostian Heights and China Grove fire departments, said non-municipal fire districts did not receive previous COVID-19 money that benefited municipal departments. Many of the county’s rural fire departments operate on small budgets, most of them relying solely on volunteers.

Commissioner Mike Caskey said the $1.2 million will help volunteer fire departments replace revenue lost by not being able to hold fundraisers during the pandemic.

“They’ve certainly had a rough year like everybody else,” Caskey said.

Before the $1.2 million is distributed, the Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association will sign an agreement with county governments to certify that departments will follow the county’s guidance in regard to how the money can be spent. The Fire and Rescue Association represents the departments in the county and meets on a bi-monthly basis. The county is still working to finalize the exact terms of the agreement.

“We know there are going to be some type of restrictions on this funding, but at this point I haven’t seen what they are,” Zimmerman said.

County Manager Aaron Church said he would like to move forward with distribution of the funding as soon as possible.

In other meeting business:

• Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement between the county and the town of Spencer for the Sheriff’s Office to provide temporary law enforcement assistance to the town. Church said the request for the agreement came from Spencer Town Manager Peter Franzese, who said the town has a shortage of officers.

The agreement would have Spencer pay deputies at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for each hour worked for the town, regardless of the number of hours worked for Rowan County. Additionally, deputies will receive a $300 bonus for working 40 hours in a 14-day period and a $150 bonus for working a minimum of eight hours on Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Spencer will pay Rowan County $50 for each hour of service a deputy provides to the town. The money will cover the deputy’s salary and benefits, vehicle, vehicle fuel, uniform and regular equipment. 

Church said the agreement is almost identical to the agreement the county entered into with the city of Salisbury in 2016.

“We’ve done this before,” Chairman Greg Edds said. “When municipalities reach out and ask for help we are eager to help them.”

The agreement between Rowan County and Spencer will remain in effect for six months. Church said he believes the Spencer Board of Aldermen will approve a similar agreement at an upcoming meeting.

• Commissioners passed a resolution supporting a developer’s ability to temporarily disturb a conserved piece of land near Grants Creek to form two connections to a Salisbury-Rowan Utilities sanitary sewer line. Sherwood Development Group has plans to build a 270-home development near the existing Forest Glen subdivision on Mooresville Road. Grants Creek runs along the back perimeter of the proposed development.

The subdivision has already been approved by the Salisbury City Council. However, Rowan County currently has a conservation easement in place with Three Rivers Land Trust prohibiting types of development in the Grants Creek area. Conservation easements are agreements typically designed to protect land from future development.

County Attorney Jay Dees told commissioners he does not believe the developer connecting to the sewer line would violate the easement as long as the developer restores the land to its natural state.

Dees said he expects Sherwood Development Group to make a request for the Three Rivers Land Trust board to review the easement and approve temporary land disturbing activities.

• Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for its meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 regarding an incentive request for a unnamed economic development opportunity. The Rowan Economic Development Council is asking for a county incentive package for “Project Bishop,” which would create 1,000 jobs over the next four years and invest approximately $400 million in new construction and equipment. The potential project would be similar to Chewy’s projected job creation and investment totals when it announced a location in Rowan County in 2019. Chewy has since added more than 1,200 employees at the facility.

• Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 15 regarding a request for a rezoning from Birdseye Renewable Energy. The Charlotte-based company, a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, is seeking the rezoning to construct a roughly 574-acre solar facility in Gold Hill, near the private Gold Hill Airpark.

The rezoning request, which has received impassioned and organized opposition from Gold Hill residents, was not recommended for approval by the Rowan County Planning Board. Commissioners do not have to comply with the recommendation. 

Commissioners also approved rules for the impending hearing. Birdseye Renewable Energy will be given 30 minutes to present their application. The public will have 45 minutes to comment, with each speaker limited to three minutes. The proposed rules state time may be yielded from one or more citizens to give a spokesperson more time to talk. Following public comment, Birdseye will be given 15 minutes for rebuttal.

• Commissioners passed a proclamation recognizing Nov. 15-19 as Farm City Week in Rowan County. Farm City Week highlights the partnerships between farmers and their communities. The Cooperative Extension and the Rowan County Soil and Water Conservation District have a series of virtual agricultural awareness events planned to celebrate the week.

Before Vice Chair Jim Greene read the proclamation aloud, the board recognized the Watson family for being named Outstanding Conservation Farm Family of the Year for the area and the mountain region from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Watson family operates Wetmore Farms, 450 rolling acres in western Rowan County on which they produce a variety of crops.

• Commissioners approved allocating $92,800 to Families First for the funding of a visitation station. Families First is a nonprofit organization that supports families in Rowan County and the visitation station is used by the courts for supervised parental visitation. The county would appropriate the funding in four quarterly payments of $23,200. The funds would be allocated from the general fund balance.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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