Bond for ‘community-defining’ projects may appear on fall ballot

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

City leaders agreed to move forward with asking voters, via bond referendum, for a variety of items — including an addition to the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway, streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro and a new public safety building — on the upcoming November ballot.

During a morning-long Sanford City Council retreat Wednesday, Public Works Director Victor Czar and Sanford-Lee County Planning Director Bob Bridwell spoke about several high-cost projects that could be placed on the impending November ballot as a General Obligation Bond referendum.

“These have been identified as community-defining projects,” Bridwell said, “a change in the nature of the city.”

While still in the preliminary stages, Czar said the total cost for all of the projects could be as high as $21.5 million.

According to his presentation, the referendum could include:

• $5 million for an approximate five-mile extension of the greenway.

• $5 million for streetscape improvements in downtown Sanford.

• $1.5 million for streetscape improvements to Jonesboro.

• $2 million for sidewalk improvements.

• $2 million for recreational purposes.

• $ 6 million for a new public safety building, replacing the current Sanford Police Department building.

Details on the recreational purposes, sidewalk improvements and the location of the new public safety building were not readily available or given.

A General Obligation Bond referendum, if approved by the voters, would authorize the city to begin the process of completing these projects and incur debt, said Sanford Finance Director Melissa Cardinali. Then the city is allowed to use legally available resources, including tax revenues, to pay off the debt.

Bridwell said some would view this as a tax increase while others, on the marketing side, view these as necessary improvements.

“Hopefully, we are doing the right things to make our tax base grow,” he said.

The referendum would not impact the upcoming fiscal year 2013-2014’s budget, which begins July 1, other than some election-related costs, said Sanford Manager Hal Hegwer.

Sanford City Council intends to meet again at 8:30 a.m. May 1, before its regularly-scheduled 1 p.m. Law and Finance Committee meeting, to discuss the upcoming referendum process. Lee County Board of Elections Director Nancy Kimble said the board begins to develop the ballots after filing is complete on July 19, and Sanford City Council must approve a resolution with the ballot wording before that time.