Bladen County voters on Tuesday spoke emphatically on three local referendums, and joined the rest of the state in passing a statewide bond issue.
About two-thirds of voters in North Carolina supported the $2 billion Connect NC Bond referendum , which will distribute bond money for higher education, infrastructure, agriculture and state park improvements.
In Bladen County alone, $6.53 million will come to Bladen Community College to help build a much-needed STEM facility, and both Jones Lake State Park and Singletary lake State Park will get money for needed improvements.
Gov. Pat McCrory, who proposed the bond last year and also won his own GOP primary for re-election, was ecstatic with Tuesday’s result.
“This is a historic moment because it will set a new course of greatness for our state,” he said. “This is bond is what is best for the next generation of North Carolinians. We listened. We compromised. We worked with the leadership across this state to get this bond passed.”
Bladen County helped the state pass the bond, approving it by a 5,529 to 2,664 margin — and William Findt, president of Bladen Community College, led the applause for the passage.
“We’re all pleased here at the college,” he said. “We’re appreciative of those in the county who supported the bond issue because, for us, the money will be used wisely for the future generations of students.”
Findt said the last construction of classroom space at BCC came in 1998, and the last bond issue, in 2000, was used for the construction of the college’s library.
“The library is a wonderful facility, but offers no classroom space,” he said. “This money will allow us to build a nearly 20,000-square-foot STEM building that will include such things as space for EMS training, science labs and a teaching auditorium.”
Sales tax nixed
For the fourth time since 2010 and third time in the past two years, a quarter-cent sales tax hike was overwhelmingly nixed by voters across Bladen County.
In 2014, the sales-tax issue was aimed at benefiting the county’s school district for capital outlay projects. On Tuesday, the sales-tax referendum was earmarked for lowering property taxes by 2 cents per $100 of valuation, but voters rejected the issue once again by a vote of 5,317 to 3,016.
The quarter-cent sales tax, which would have been paid by residents and visitors to the county with any purchases, would have raised an estimated $450,000 per year. Bladen County is one of just seven counties among the state’s 100 that does not benefit from an extra sales or occupancy tax.
White Lake toasts
While the sale of fortified wine in White lake has been on the books for a number of years, voters there approved two referendums that will allow for the on-premises and off-premises sale of malted beverages and unfortified wine.
The malted beverage issue passed by a margin of 207 to 128, while the unfortified wine issue passed by a margin of 204 to 129.
Robin Summerlin, a proponent of the two referendums, said he is happy with the results.
“I feel good,” he said. “There was a lot of opposition – -a lot of strong and very organized opposition to it — and they worked hard to defeat it.”
Another proponent, Dawn Maynard, a White Lake resident and executive director of the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said the vote opens up a new avenue of revenue for the town.
“I’m excited about the results,” she said. “Not only will it bring revenue to the town year-round, but the opportunity for a beer garden to accompany the entertainment tent at the White Lake Water Festival — with the permission and blessing of the property owners, of course — is certainly a possibility for us.
“That would really help us raise money and grow the event,” she added. “We’ve seen proof of that with the Summers Sounds Concert Series in Elizabethtown — and potentially adding a concert series at the lake is now there, as well.”
Maynard said no changes would be made for the 2016 Festival, but would instead be focused on 2017.
“It just takes too much time and preparation for something like this,” she said. “And we certainly want to do it right.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.