STONE MOUNTAIN — Area officials, including the mayors of Elkin, Jonesville and Yadkin County Commissioner Kevin Austin, gathered Thursday at Stone Mountain to welcome Governor Pat McCrory who visited the park to campaign for a $2 billion bond referendum.
The referendum, which will be on the ballot for NC voters in March, is the first since 2000 and the funds to be borrowed will go towards construction and infrastructure projects across the state, including projects at community colleges, universities, state parks, the North Carolina Zoo and more.
“I think this is something that Yadkin and Surry and Elkin can definitely use both from a trails and parks perspective as well as the infrastructure,” said Elkin Mayor Lestine Huchens. “That was such good news when infrastructure is being funded or help funded by this bond issue and I will certainly be working for this bond issue.”
Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz said she was thrilled with the proposed bond referendum and the $75 million proposed to go towards 45 different projects at North Carolina state parks, plus $25 million for improvements at the North Carolina Zoo.
Kluttz spoke of the many cultural and natural resources in the state, which she called true treasures.
“I’m going to work just as hard to make sure the people of North Carolina understand that included in this bond referendum are our wonderful treasures,” she said.
Infrastructure, park funds and funds proposed to go towards community colleges are all items about which Yadkin County Chairman Kevin Austin said he was excited.
“This bond is being constructed to help a lot of people in North Carolina and Yadkin County,” Austin said. “The community college piece is great for us, a lot of infrastructure, water and sewer as well as the parks. We’ve dreamed of continuing the Mountains to Sea Trail through the northern part of Yadkin County to connect Elkin and Jonesville to Pilot Mountain State Park and hopefully this fund will go a long way to making that happen.”
McCrory began his speech by reminiscing about former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt who were instrumental in creating infrastructure and preserving the natural resources of the nation.
“The fact of the matter is when it comes to our universities, community colleges, National Guard and state parks, we’ve been just maintaining them at best, now it’s the time for new investment, just like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight David Eisenhower did when they were leaders of this county, and I want North Carolina to lead the way to have future investments for our current infrastructure so future generations can benefit and that’s why we’re initiating this bond campaign,” McCrory said.
“I think it’s my job as governor to preserve these parks and build upon these parks and build upon our universities and help our National Guard and help our community, help our water and sewer services, especially for small towns so they have the same quality of life for future generations.”
In regard to the funds proposed to go toward state parks, McCrory said, “It’s my faith that tells me we need to leave this place better than when we arrived and that’s exactly what we are doing with our parks system.”
Also included in the bond referendum are the following:
— $209.5 million for loans to build water and sewer system projects, with another $100 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure grants.
— $75 million for more than 40 state parks.
— $85 million for a plant sciences building shared between the Department of Agriculture and N.C. State University.
— $25 million to replace the Africa Pavilion for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.
— $94 million for a new Department of Agriculture lab.
— $70 million for National Guard construction.
— $8.5 million for the new Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County for correctional and probation and parole officers.
— $3 million in grants for local parks for children and veterans with disabilities.
With the continued growth of the state, McCrory said that preparation for that growth was what the state needs.
“We have a choice, we can either react to growth and what we need in the future or are we going to prepare for it? I’m convinced that those who only react wait too long, those who prepare, maintain and improve the quality of life and continue our economic prosperity for generations to come and that’s what I’m going to be encouraging voters to do in March is to allow the state to prepare for the future.”
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.