Commissioners set hearing for ‘Project Excelsior,’ approve more funding for tourism grant program

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 17, 2021

SALISBURY — Solar might have stolen the show at the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday night, but the board also took action on several other items.

Along with approving an incentives agreement for “Project Bishop,” commissioners scheduled a public hearing for their Dec. 6 meeting regarding an incentive request for “Project Excelsior.” 

The company behind “Project Excelsior” is an existing employer in Rowan County that is considering the county for a potential expansion. The expansion would create 40 jobs over the next two years and result in a $10.5 million investment in building improvements and new equipment.

More details about the proposed incentive deal will be provided on Dec. 6. The commissioners will meet at 3 p.m. in the J. Newton Cohen Sr. room on the second floor of the Rowan County Administration building at 130 W. Innes St.

The job creation and investment totals for “Project Excelsior” are not as significant as what is being proposed for “Project Bishop.” The company behind “Project Bishop” is an online retailer looking for a new eCommerce center. If Rowan County is chosen for “Project Bishop,” the company would create 1,000 jobs and invest $400 million in new construction and equipment. In addition to the incentive agreement approved by commissioners for “Project Bishop,” the China Grove Town Council on Tuesday afternoon approved an incentive agreement for the project as well.

• The board approved granting Rowan County Tourism $32,466 in funding from the American Rescue Plan that will be used to bolster the Rowan County Lodging, Arts and Cultural COVID Business Grant. The grant program was established by Tourism earlier this year to help local institutions impacted by the pandemic. 

The initial pool of money available in the grant program was $100,000, but Tourism is now hoping to increase that total to $150,000. The $32,466 approved by commissioners could be added to the $17,000 that Tourism Director James Meacham is seeking from the Tourism board.

The grant program opened in September and closed at the end of October. Meacham said about a dozen local entities applied for funding and their losses totaled in excess of $5 million. 

Applicants had to demonstrate a loss of revenue of at least 20% between April 2020 and Dec. 2020 compared to the same time period from the year before. Approved applicants will receive a grant equal to a specified percentage of the applicant’s decline in revenues. With additional money approved from commissioners and the potential for more, each applicant will receive more money to cover COVID losses.

• Finance Director Jim Howden gave the board a monthly update on the county’s financial standing. Howden reported that the county’s cumulative expenditures for this fiscal year, which started on July 1, were $48.3 million through the end of October. The county’s cumulative revenues, meanwhile, were $70.8 million through the same month, an increase of about $4 million from last year. Through September, the county collected $55.5 million in property taxes. The county’s cumulative sales tax numbers continue to look promising. In July, Rowan County collected $2.9 million in sales tax, which is a roughly $350,000 increase from the prior July.

• The board voted to amend the county’s contract with ADW Architects to add design and construction services related to renovations at West End Plaza. The county has plans to turn a portion of the former Salisbury Mall into an agricultural center and meeting space. The change to the contract will have the architecture firm also work on plans to renovate the mall concourse at West End Plaza, which is adjacent to the planned agricultural center. The total fee for the added services is $62,3000.

• Commissioners approved an agreement with REI Engineers for the company to provide services for roof replacement at the Rowan County Courthouse. The proposal calls for the replacement of approximately 12,225 square feet of roof. The county will pay REI $34,9000 for the replacement.

• The board approved an agreement with an appraiser for him to provide a letter of opinion on the value of a Grants Creek Conservation easement.

Rowan County is currently working with Three Rivers Land Trust to amend the conservation easement to allow a developer to temporarily disturb the land to connect to a Salisbury-Rowan Utilities sanitary sewer line. The connection is needed before Sherwood Development Group can build a 270-home development near the existing Forest Glen subdivision on Mooresville Road. The Salisbury City Council has already approved the development. Grants Creek runs along the back perimeter of the proposed subdivision.

The county’s current conservation easement has language that could be prohibitive to the land disturbing activity. The letter of opinion on the easement is needed before the Three Rivers Land Trust Board considers amending it at a meeting in December.

The appraiser’s services will cost less than $1,000.

• Commissioners gave approval to Airport and Transit Director Valierie Steele for her to continue to have conversations with the city of Salisbury regarding the relinquishment of its extraterritorial jurisdiction zoning of the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport. Steele wrote in a memo to commissioners that the zoning conflicts with the airport’s development projects and expectations set by the Federal Aviation Administration. Steele would like the county to establish a new airport district if the zoning is relinquished.

• The board voted to close a portion of McCleave Road, which was also known as Barnhardt Drive. The portion of road was not maintained by NCDOT and its closure was requested by the adjoining landowner.

• The board appointed Commissioner Mike Caskey and Commissioner Judy Klusman to the Vaya Health Board as regional representatives. Vaya will become a Medicaid care provider in Rowan County as it merges with Cardinal Innovations, who previously served the county.