Board puts CCCC bond measure on April agenda

Mar. 19, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

After nearly a year in limbo, a Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees request to place a $23 million bond referendum on the 2014 election ballot will appear on the Lee County Board of Commissioners's April 21 meeting agenda. 

The Lee County Commissioners must approve the trustees' request before it can be placed on the ballot. Lee County Manager John Crumpton told commissioners during their Monday meeting that they had to formally respond to the trustees' resolution. It doesn't obligate the commission board to vote for or against the request, he said.

"You have to give them time, if you are going to allow them to put it on the ballot, to go out and sell the proposal to the public," Crumpton said.

A decision must be made by June to allow enough time for the ballots to be printed for the 2014 general election. The next available opportunity to place the referendum on the ballot would be in 2016, per a new state law that mandates all bond referendums be voted on during general elections.

CCCC trustees unanimously passed a resolution on April 24, 2013, asking commissioners to put the bond referendum — which would fund the construction of a new health science building, expand and renovate the veterinary medical technology program, renovate the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, make various repairs to the Sanford campus and emergency services training center, and renovate the small business incubator — before the people during the 2014 election.

The trustees repeatedly have called on the commissioners to take action on the referendum and have held joint meetings between the two boards.

CCCC President Bud Marchant said he was glad the item was being placed on the agenda because the college's needs have been well documented. As for whether it gives the college enough time to promote the bond items — if they eventually get the green light from the county — he said, "It is what it is."

"We will do the best that we can," he said Tuesday. "We know [the commissioners] are very busy, and we know money is extremely tight in Lee County and they need to thoroughly vet and discuss it among themselves. We will do what we can do when they give us the go ahead, if they give us the go ahead."

Lee County Commissioner Robert Reives asked Lee County Finance Director Lisa Minter to present data from the last 10 years concerning the amount of education-related debt issued by Lee County for CCCC.

In the last 10 years, the county has issued $4.6 million worth of debt for CCCC compared to the $73.2 million for Lee County Schools.

Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack said there are many ways of expanding educational buildings, and issuing bonds is just one way. Plus, he said, there are other educational needs, like recent requests from the Lee County Schools for a new elementary school, that must be considered.

"Unfortunately ... or fortunately depending on your perspective, there has already been a set of bonds that the city has done," Womack said. "But they are county taxpayers as well. And now they are under obligation for these city projects, and now we are going to add another layer of bonds at the county level. And, at some point, the level of debt and the impact of the tax rates are going to be felt."

In other matters, Commissioners:

* Approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and Duke Energy Progress. Per the agreement, the county would provide assistance to "support Harris Nuclear Plant's Emergency Plan." Duke Energy would make an annual payment of $75,000 to Lee County.

* Accepted a check of $21,750 from Greenway Residential Development to be used for Dalrymple Park.

* Removed the agenda item to eliminate an inactive member of the Lee County Parks and Recreation Board.

* Reappointed several individuals to Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

* Proclaimed Lee County to be a "Purple Heart County," meaning the county supports veterans who've received the Purple Heart military decoration.

* Asked the N.C. Department of Transportation to consider a traffic study for a possible turning lane at the intersection of Cedar Lane and White Hill Road.