A $2 billion Connect NC Public Improvement Bond that would fund capital improvements and new facilities in 76 counties, including Sampson, passed easily on Tuesday bolstered by bipartisan support.
It had roughly a two-thirds majority across the state — 65.6 percent were for the measure — with similar approval in Sampson, which approved the bond 7,320 votes (64.6 percent) to 4,008 (35.4 percent).
“I was very pleased last night to see the uniform support across the state for the Connect NC Bond,” Sampson Community College president Dr. Paul Hutchins told The Independent Wednesday. “The improvements that will result from the bond funds will benefit the students that attend Sampson Community College for many decades to come.”
The bond includes $4,774,533 for new construction, repairs and renovations at Sampson Community College alone.
Gov. Pat McCrory applauded the passage of the $2 billion proposal, which he said will enable North Carolina to build the infrastructure that will improve the state’s quality of life for the coming generations.
“North Carolina has sent a message to the nation that people can come together and work to pass a bond package that will benefit future generations,” McCrory said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. “I want to thank the voters for saying yes to education, yes to strengthening our National Guard, yes to improving our quality of life by investing in our state parks, and yes to our smaller cities and towns for infrastructure that attract new jobs and strengthen our economy.”
In the weeks leading up to election, Hutchins and Sampson Cooperative Extension director Eileen Coite lobbied voters about the benefits that would come from the Connect NC Bond. It is “critical” voters be educated on its benefits, Hutchins attested then.
Specifically, the Connect NC bond will invest $980 million into the state’s 17 universities. The vast majority of these improvements will build facilities that will improve teaching and research in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. An additional $350 million will go to the state’s 58 community colleges, primarily for new construction, repairs and renovations on its 58 campuses.
Another $309.5 million will be awarded to smaller cities and towns to build and repair water and sewer systems, investments McCrory said are crucial to retaining and attracting new jobs outside of the state’s metro areas. John Swope, executive director of the Sampson Economic Development Commission, agreed.
He said such a massive bond is an opportunity that does not often come up. Financial obstacles facing many local entities make a measure very much needed — and welcomed.
Also included in Connect NC Bond, approximately $94 million will be spent to construct a new Agriculture and Consumer Sciences Lab for veterinary, food, drug and motor fuel testing. An additional $85 million will go toward a new Plant Sciences Research Complex at NC State University.
The National Guard will receive $70 million to rehabilitate Regional Readiness Centers in Burke and Wilkes counties as well as construct a new readiness center in Guilford. The bond will also invest $75 million into state parks. An additional $25 million will go the North Carolina Zoo for upgrades to service support facilities, trails and exhibits.
“The vote indicates that the citizens of Sampson County and all of North Carolina understood the impact that the funds will have for higher education, agriculture, state parks, the National Guard and water and sewer projects across the state,” Hutchins said.
For more information and a detailed list of projects proposed as part of Connect NC, visit connect.nc.gov.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.