City hurries to inform public

Bond referendums to be decided during Sept. primary
Jul. 18, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

With the city’s $14.5 million bond referendums now set to appear on the Sept. 10 primary ballot, time is of the essence to inform voters about the proposed measures.

The city should have the “basic, factual information” concerning the bond referendum items to distribute to the public by Friday, according to City Manager Hal Hegwer.

“Of course, it’s just the factual information,” he said. “It’s not promotional materials, it’s just simply to give the voters all the information to make an informed decision.”

In a 4-to-3 vote Tuesday night, Council members L.I. “Poly” Cohen, Samuel Gaskins, Walter McNeil and James “J.D.” Williams voted to change the date to vote on the bond referendums, with councilmembers Jimmy Haire, Charles Taylor and Rebecca Wyhof voting against. Nearly a dozen residents — corralled by Haire — spoke against moving the date, with one person speaking in favor of the change. 

“I do not believe all of this has happened because of coincidence,” Haire said. “I don’t think I am here by coincidence. I think I am here for this bond issue. And every time I try and pull it and drag it, someone is trying to pull it away from me. If it is on the ballot in September, early voting beings Aug. 22. There is no way to inform the public of these complex issues between now and Aug. 22.”

Gaskins, who championed the change, said the referendums will encourage greater voter participation in the primary.

“We can teach people all we want,” he said. “We can put as much information out there all we want, but we can’t learn for people. You have to be motivated to learn. ... I strongly believe that by moving it to September, we will have a [far] better educated electorate, who will come out primarily for the bond referendums.”

The bond referendums, for which city residents will vote individually on Sept. 10, are:

• $2 million for sidewalk improvements

• $2 million for 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

The ballots have to be ready by Aug. 10 for municipal primary early voting, which begins Aug. 22, according to Lee County Elections Director Nancy Kimble.

“We will have it all ready to go if that is the date you decide,” she said. “We’ll take care of it.”

A public hearing for the referendums is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 29 at the Sanford Municipal Center, located at 224 E. Weatherspoon St.