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Cornelius News

Cornelius residents to vote on more borrowing this fall

By Dave Vieser

Cornelius voters will vote yes or no on a $24 million transportation bond referendum in November. If approved this would be only the second time the town used debt for infrastructure improvements. In 2013, voters approved borrowing slightly more than $20 million to be used for roads, parks and the town arts center.

Town officials believe now is the right time to purchase more bonds.

“If we borrow now, it will preserve our capacity to handle increases in project costs above current estimates,” said Town Manager Andrew Grant. “In addition, it would allow for the funding of other projects if changes occur with existing projects, such as the Jetton Road Extension.”

Grant also said the bonds would allow for local funding of DOT’s Strategic Transportation Investment (STI) projects such as the Bailey Road flyover, plus it times out well with NCDOT projects beginning construction in 2019.

While members of the town board authorized the referendum, some expressed caution. “Our town’s capital investment picture is huge and skyrocketing,” said Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “Major road improvements such as the Bailey Road straightening to Hwy. 21 will transform our town transportation infrastructure. However, financing all these projects will stretch our debt obligations beyond anything we have ever seen in Cornelius history.”

During previous discussions on the bonds, commissioners had asked budget and bond officials for a recommended ceiling for the next phase of borrowing. Mayor Woody Washam said $24 million was “that comfort figure,” which is what the town is asking for in the draft referendum.

One issue which continues to surface is the continued increase in construction costs. “With the economy booming, we just don’t see costs going down” Grant said. “Probably just the opposite.”

A public hearing on the bonds has been tentatively scheduled for Monday Aug. 6 at Town Hall.

Here’s what the town has done thus far with its earlier bonds authorized in 2013:

Bonds sold in 2015

• Roads: $5.48 million for Hickory St. Extension, Bailey Road/115 Intersection and other improvements such as Nannie Potts Lane and the Gem Street extension.

• Parks and Recreation:

$4.2 million for  Caldwell Station Creek Greenway, Hoyt Wilhelm Park, Antiquity Greenway, South Bailey Road Greenway, McDowell Creek Greenway and other park improvements.

Bonds to be sold in July 2018

• Roads: $5.6 million for Bailey Road extension and other smaller projects.

• Parks: $1.05 million for JV Washam/Cornelius Elementary School Greenway.