Who defines a “Governmental Economic Development Site” under the Broadband Bill?

Posted on June 20, 2016

RFP Staff

♦ It was a bit unclear today, when I picked up Rowan County Commission Agenda and saw that the Rowan County Commissioners scheduled for approval on Monday’s consent agenda an item, “Authorize City of Salisbury to Extend Fibrant to Summit Corporate Park and Chamandy Drive.” You can find in more detail in the PDF. information packet attached to the agenda.

I looked up the enabling statute and I suppose the following excerpt from the “Broadband Bill” is the vehicle they intend to use: NCGS § 150A-340.2(c)(3)(b) – The Rowan County Board of Commissioners shall vote to approve service extension to any governmental economic development site, governmental facility, school or college owned by Rowan County.”

While there may be an argument that two businesses in a county developed business park are part of a “governmental economic development site,” that seemed to be a bit of a stretch. But there is no statutory definition—at this time—of what constitutes a “governmental economic development site”.

Since about a month after our state legislature passed the ‘broadband bill’, the City of Salisbury removed over $7.6 million from the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities water reserve fund as a “loan” that they’ve not made serious efforts to repay. They entered a contract in 2000 with the Town of Spencer covenanting not to spend water revenues on “any other operation”, which they’ve done repeatedly. And water revenue is a likely source to finance the extension of Fibrant, directly or indirectly, into the area on tomorrow’s consent agenda.  Fibrant was built as a monument to Salisbury’s folly, and it has not only drained that city’s coffers, depriving its residents of vital first responder service needs, but has ripped off SRU’s utility customers by siphoning off funds, and neglecting capital water/sewer infrastructure replacements. Were Salisbury to find itself in a predicament like Flint, Michigan, where they lacked funds to replace neglected infrastructure, then you could fully expect the City of Salisbury to seek emergency financial assistance from the Federal and State government.

All this is authorized under Salisbury’s exemption to the Broadband Bill. And they will continue to burn through local and regional funds like tomorrow doesn’t exist.

Unless the legislature decides that enough is enough, and enacts some changes and accountability to Salisbury’s exemption in the broadband bill.

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