The March 15 primary election is quickly approaching. This year there are not just names on the ballot. The public has the opportunity to voice its opinion on funding projects through the Connect NC Bond.
After failing to be placed on the ballot last fall, the Connect NC bond has undergone some changes. Transportation improvements are no longer included in the proposal, dropping the total price tag by nearly $1 billion.
The new offer is a $2 billion bond which would fund projects focusing on higher education, agriculture, water and sewer systems, state parks, and public safety in 76 counties across the state. Surry County stands to gain $11.7 million in funding for Pilot Mountain State Park and Surry Community College.
Jay Young, president of the Friends of Sauratown Mountains, explained the bond funding is a critical need for the park. Of the total amount, $4.48 million is set aside for Pilot Mountain State Park to build a visitor center and expand parking. “Most other parks across the state have had visitor centers built in the last 15 years,” said Young, noting the small office space at Pilot Mountain cannot accommodate groups of visitors.
“The park, being right there on 52, gets a tremendous amount of traffic, with folks using the park facilities like a rest area,” Young said, adding on busy days, the park rangers are occupied as traffic directors and unable to fulfill their other duties.
Hanging Rock State Park also is included in the bond with funding of $2.1 million. According to Young, restoration at the Vade Mecum and Moore’s Springs properties are the intended uses for the bond funding. “The campground at Hanging Rock gets completely filled during the peak season, and they turn folks away,” said Young, noting restoring the lodging at two adjacent properties could boost the county’s tourism industry.
Surry Community College serves both Surry and Yadkin counties at the main campus and four satellite centers. If the bond passes, the school will received $7.22 million for maintenance, repairs, and new construction.
“We have some facilities over 50 years old and they are in desperate need to be updated and repaired,” said Dr. David Shockley, president of SCC, noting roof replacements and parking lot paving are among the maintenance project which will no longer need to be deferred due to lack of funds.
The proposed new construction is for an industrial training center on the Yadkin property. “This training center will allow the college to offer technical degrees or certifications in Yadkin County for the first time in the history of the college,” said Shockley, adding there is no other higher education presence in Yadkin County. With the new building the Yadkin Center would be able to serve 6,000 students annually offering programs in mechatronics, welding, machining, electrical wiring, and truck driving.
The bond stipulates that new construction projects utilize matching funds. According to Shockley, the school’s foundation already has raised and set aside the necessary funds to begin work as soon as the bond money is available. “The bond funding will allow us to make that project a reality; it is critical in meeting the needs of business and industry in Yadkin County,” said Shockley.
Other uses for bond funding include projects at Stone Mountain State Park and water and sewer infrastructure, which the town of Elkin is advocating in favor of.
The voter registration deadline is past. While more than a million North Carolinians of voting age did not register, the number of those registered who vote during a presidential primary is only about 30 percent, according to the State Board of Elections website. Advocates of both the state parks and the community college system encourage voters to visit the polls this primary season.
Figures used in this article and details about projects statewide can be found at: www.connect.nc.gov.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.