Voters pass Connect NC bond referendum

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The $2 billion Connect NC bond package referendum passed by a margin of 7,038 to 4,971 votes in Beaufort County, and passed statewide by a projected 69 percent.

As voters went to the polls Tuesday to place a ballot for the North Carolina primary election, there was also a referendum to decide on whether to pass the General Assembly’s Connect NC Bond Act.

By passing the referendum, voters opened the door to a multi-faceted plan, which includes funding for higher education, parks, sewer and water infrastructure and public safety. The last time a bond package of this magnitude was funneling money into eastern North Carolina was in 2000 — a bond totaling $3 billion and carrying a voter-approved debt of about 11 years.

Beaufort County Community College will receive more than $6.5 million from the Connect NC bond, money that will be used mostly for building a Public Safety Training Complex.

The complex will include a 500-by-600-foot driving pad, a burn building and an observation building. Other funds will go toward upgrades to bring the college in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including $240,000 for signs for those who have limited sight and $112,000 for road-crossing improvements.

BCCC pushed for voters to vote for the referendum, along with East Carolina University executives and realtors.

“This Public Safety Training Complex will be beneficial not only to Beaufort County Community College, but to the people in the four-county area we serve,” said BCCC President Dr. Barbara Tansey in a February press release. “Our residents can be assured that our first responders will have received the most up-to-date training when they arrive at the scene of an emergency.”

Despite the positive aspect of funding, some Beaufort County residents were wary of such a bond commitment.

Although the General Assembly agreed to not raise taxes or levy new ones upon voter approval of the referendum, some were worried about the potential burden in the future related to paying back the bond money with interest accrued.

Coined as a “debt deal,” non-supporters have expressed concerns that Connect NC may be too good to be true.

But voters decided to invest in the bond package on Tuesday, and while there is no word on when the funds will be dispersed, it could take a year or more.