Hearing on bond referendums draws supporters, opponents

Jul. 29, 2013 @ 09:40 PM

From fervent supporters to staunch opponents, city residents shared their thoughts, opinions and insights on Sanford's $14.5 million bond referendums during a specially-called meeting Monday.

Sanford City Council held four public hearings at the Sanford Municipal Center with several individuals speaking in favor and against each of the referendum items.

The bond items, for which city residents will vote individually during the municipal primary scheduled for Sept. 10, include:

* $2 million for sidewalk improvements.

* $2 million for park and recreational purposes.

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

* $4 million for a four-mile extension of the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway.

Richard Hayes, a former Lee County Commissioner, said the projects are clear investments for the city and he strongly supports each of the items.

"I see this bond referendum as a vote of confidence to the future of our city and our leadership," he said.

Three Republican candidates for Sanford City Council — Keith Clark and Max Dolan seeking the one At-Large district seat and Bill Oberkirsch seeking the Ward 1 seat — each spoke against the bond referendums during the public hearings.

"I believe that all of these bond projects are excellent and needed, but as a conservative, I like to conserve," Dolan said.

Clark used a PowerPoint and video presentation to say the referendums did not inspire confidence in the city or its leadership and Oberkirsch said the people of Sanford could not afford a tax increase during an economic downturn.

Emily Harris, who said she moved to Sanford from Guilford County, said she missed the various parks and recreational opportunities that were offered to her family. These bond items, she added, will bring more people to Sanford and help the local economy.

John Barron, a city resident, said he wasn't sure if he was in favor of the bond items, but that he wanted the city to provide more information on each of the items to the public.

Later in the meeting, Sanford Public Information Officer Kelly Miller spoke about the city's campaign to inform the public including a "mini-site" that provided more detailed information on each of the items, their potential impact on the city's tax rate and offered preliminary architectural renderings. The mini-site is located at www.sanfordnc.net.

Councilman Jimmy Haire encouraged the body to delay holding the vote until the November general election, saying more time was needed to explain the issues to voters. But Councilwoman Rebecca Wyhof countered, saying a decision had already been made on a September vote. 

"The process has started," she said. "Don't insult the voters by moving the vote to November."