CCCC trustees ask to put project funding to a vote

Apr. 26, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Central Carolina Community College is seeking a countywide vote to fund a variety of facility construction and renovation projects at its Lee County campus.

The CCCC Board of Trustees requested via resolution $23 million in funding from the Lee County Board of Commissioners for capital improvements — including the construction of a Health Sciences Center and renovations to the Veterinary Medical Technology facility and Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center — during a quarterly meeting in Siler City Wednesday night. The resolution passed unanimously and called for commissioners to provide funding “by issuance of bonds or otherwise” to meet the capital needs of the community college.

According to the resolution set to be sent to the commissioners sometime in May, the trustees are asking the board to place a bond referendum, or vote by the people, on the November 2014 general election ballot. This would give the county the approval of the electorate to raise the property tax rate to cover the bond expense of the projects.   

Trustee Chairman Julian Philpott said Thursday that he was proud of his fellow trustees for taking appropriate action to guarantee the college’s successful future.

“They are working very hard to ensure that Central Carolina Community College continues its standards of academic excellence,” he said. “Look at the awards our faculty and students have been presented with in the past several years. It has been phenomenal in what they have been able to accomplish.”

If the commissioners place the bond referendum on the ballot, and it is then approved by a vote of the people, the funds would provide for:

* The construction of a Health Sciences Center, estimated at $9 million, for workforce training programs and expanding the college’s allied health programs.

* Renovation and expansion of the Veterinary Medical Technology facility, estimated at $5 million, to meet the demand of the college’s “most successful” and competitive program.

* Renovation and expansion the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center to address safety concerns and create additional conference space for $4 million.

* Renovation of a variety of facilities, including replacement of the Joyner Hall roof, expansion of the Emergency Service Training Center and expansion of the welding program for $4 million.

* Renovation of the building, located at 130 S. Steele St., donated to the college to house the Small Business Center and serve as a small business incubator.

A detailed outline of the projects is available online at www.sanfordherald.com.

“This request for funding, with a suggested bond referendum, is not made lightly or without significant discussion,” Philpott said. “The board of trustees considers the funding of these projects as necessary to maintain CCCC’s standing as one of the best educational and workforce development institutions in the country and an effective economic driver for Lee County.”

The Health Sciences Building is the college’s top priority because of the county’s high demand for training in health-related careers and the increase in applicants for those health-related programs, he said. Sanford is one of North Carolina’s Certified Retirement Communities, and graduates in the medical field will be needed to treat the aging population, Philpott said.

The trustees are asking that the referendum not be placed on the ballot for the fall municipal election because the referendum impacts the entire county. The trustees also want the time to inform the population, he said.

“The board (of trustees) wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to have folks in the community meet to discuss the needs of the college and provide as much information as we can,” Philpott said.

The CCCC resolution may come before the commissioners in May, but Lee County Manager John Crumpton said he doesn’t expect the board to take immediate action.

“I doubt they would vote on it anytime soon,” he said Thursday. “We are in the middle of our budgeting cycle and several other issues.”

Crumpton said the county’s legal staff is determining what action the commissioners can take in regard to placing the referendum on the ballot.

“It was our belief the commissioners had the final decision (on whether to place a referendum on the ballot),” Crumpton said. The current state statues are being reviewed for clarification, he said, because it was brought to the county’s attention that the commissioners may be forced to put any referendum on the ballot when they are requested to do so.

The county is also expecting a similar referendum request for a new elementary school by the Lee County Board of Education, Crumpton said.