SANFORD: Clock ticking to put bond measure on ballot

May. 02, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

If city leaders want voters to consider a number of big-ticket items — including a new public safety building, an expansion of the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway, and streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro —  they have to move fast.

The requirements and accompanying timeline for issuing a General Obligation Bond referendum for the November general election were presented during Sanford City Council’s Law and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday at the Sanford Municipal Center. According to FirstSouthwest Senior Vice President Amy Vitner, city council would need to announce its intent to begin the bond referendum process, via council resolution, during its May 21 meeting.

“If it’s council’s will to hit the [November] ballot, then the calendar doesn’t have a lot of room for flexibility,” Vitner said. “You will need to begin taking action at the meeting after next.”

Council had agreed in mid-April to consider placing five “community-defining” projects on the upcoming municipal election ballot as a General Obligation Bond referendum. If approved by the voters, the referendum would authorize the city to begin these projects, incur debt and then use all legally available resources, including increasing tax revenues, to pay off the debt.

According to a presentation made by Sanford-Lee County Planning Director Bob Bridwell and Public Works Director Victor Czar, the projects are estimated to cost $21.5 million and include:

* $5 million for an approximate five-mile addition to the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway

* $5 million for streetscape improvements in downtown Sanford

* $1.5 million for streetscape improvements in Jonesboro

* $2 million for various sidewalk improvements

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

* $2 million for recreational purposes

Details concerning the whereabouts of the greenway expansion, sidewalk improvements and the public safety building have not been solidified. 

Once a referendum passes, the city will have up to seven years to issue the bonds and may request a three-year extension, Vinter said. Sanford does not have a General Obligation Bond credit rating, but it has a Revenue Bond credit rating of Aa3 for Moody’s and AA- for Fitch, two national credit rating agencies. Based on the city’s current credit rating, it would receive rating in the “excellent” category, according to Vinter.  A high rating makes the bond a low-risk investment for lenders and provides the city with a low interest rate.

Assuming the bonds were issued in separate transactions and on a 20-year level principal structure, Sanford would pay a total of $29.6 million for the projects and have the debt paid off by 2036.

In other matters, Council considered:

* Information concerning a joint organization — encompassing the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Lee County Economic Development Corporation — tasked with coordinating economic development within Lee County. A memorandum of understanding among the Lee County Board of Commissioners, Sanford City Council, Broadway Board of Commissioners, LCEDC and chamber is being requested to form a committee to make recommendations on forming the organization, according to Brad Simpson, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.

* An agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation for the routine mowing of secondary and primary roads in Lee County.   

* An interlocal agreement with Central Carolina Community College. If approved, the agreement would formalize the Sanford Police Department’s use of the college’s Emergency Training Center in exchange for the college’s free use of the Sanford Municipal Golf Course for a yearly tournament.