City bonds get voters’ approval

Sep. 11, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

City residents can prepare for what proponents have called “game-changing” quality of life projects to take shape in the coming decade.

Each of the city of Sanford’s bond referendums, totaling $14.5 million, passed during the municipal primary Tuesday — pending any changes made when provisional ballots are tallied on Sept. 17.

How residents voted:

• The $6.5 million streetscape bond items, which will make streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro, received 1,311 yes votes, or 52.86 percent of the vote.

• The $4 million greenway bond, which will extend the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway from Kiwanis Family Park to Central Carolina Hospital before looping back to downtown Sanford, received 1,256 yes votes, or 50.91 percent of the vote.

* The $2 million parks and recreational bond, which will create an interactive play area with water elements, received 1,395 yes votes, or 56.14 percent of the vote. 

* The $2 million sidewalk bond item, which will expand and repair sidewalks within city limits, received 1,415 yes votes, or 57.06 percent of the vote.

The potential property tax impact is a 5.2 cent increase per $100 if construction and implementation of the bonds begins at the same time. However, city leaders have said this will not be the case and they will attempt to minimize the tax impact on residents. The city has seven years to issue the bonds, with a possible three-year extension. 

Split down party lines, Democratic candidates said they were in favor of the bonds with Republican candidates denouncing the items as additional city tax increases.

Keith Clark, who did not receive the Republican nomination for the at-large district seat, said he entered the political race to force a Republican primary and vote down the bonds.

“The bonds have won, but that doesn’t mean the money has to be spent,” he said Tuesday night.

Lee County Republican Party Chairman Charles Staley said based on the election results, it seems people are not pleased with how Sanford City Council has run the city but added he was happy the bond items were put forward as referendums.

Sanford Matters, a group consisting of business owners, interested residents and former politicians, advocated for the passage of the bond items with former Sanford City Council member Joe Martin as its organizer. These bond items will push the community forward in positive way, he said.

“I am very excited,” Martin said after the results were reported. “I think the [Sanford Matters] committee did what they needed to do to educate the citizens on these issues.”

When to vote on the bond referendum items, which were first formally discussed during a Sanford City Council budget retreat in April, was hotly contested in the weeks leading up to the municipal primary. The bond items were originally slated appear on the ballot during the November election, but City Councilman Samuel Gaskins led a successful push to move them to the primary.

Various conceptual plans have been completed by the Sanford City Council on the bond referendum projects, and it will be up to the board in the coming weeks — or months — to determine what should be implemented first.