LEE EDC: Bond items touted as economic drivers

Jun. 20, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

The items on the city's bond referendums — including an expansion to the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway, sidewalk improvements, enhancements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro, and funds for recreation — should be considered economic development tools, Sanford-Lee County Planning Director Bob Bridwell said during a meeting Wednesday.

The Sanford City Council approved the $14.5 million in bond referendums Tuesday night. Voters will consider the referendum items during the November municipal election.

Bridwell and City Manager Hal Hegwer provided information on the referendums during a Wednesday meeting of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation.

"We are saying this is our home," Bridwell said. "Come into our community, and here are the things we have to offer."

EDC Interim Director Crystal Morphis said a primary consideration when companies relocate or expand is the labor force, and there is an economic model called "Live, Work, Play," that focuses on the workers. These bond referendums are a part of the "play" aspect, she said.

Hegwer said the city is allowed to educate and inform people about the projects, but they are not allowed to advocate for the projects. An outside group needs to take the information provided by the city and push forward into advocacy, he said.

Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said the chamber has not taken a position on the referendums, but he could say anecdotally that several businesses seemed to be in favor of it. However, there was some concern about the potential tax impact, he said. The chamber would need more financial details before it would make an endorsement.

The potential, worst-case tax impact from the referendums would be a 5.2 cent increase on the property tax rate. However, Hegwer said, the likelihood of all of the projects being financed at the same time would not be very high, and residents would likely see a lesser tax increase.

The EDC could take a position on the bond referendums, Morphis said, but did not during the meeting. 

The bond referendums include:

* $4 million for an expansion of the greenway.

* $6.5 million for streetscape improvements in downtown Sanford and Jonesboro.

* $2 million for various sidewalk improvements.

* $2 million for recreational purposes.