Public Hearings On Bond Orders Monday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A successful bond vote is a contract with the voters.

And Davie County voters will decide in May on a $54.5 million bond for a new high school on Farmington Road to replace the current Davie High, and on a $5 million bond to fund recreation needs.

County commissioners earlier this month heard from Paul Billow, an attorney hired to get the issues on the ballot. They were to vote on orders authorizing the bond votes.

One commissioner – Carl Humphrey – spent more than 30 minutes questioning Billow, and often heard the answer, because that is what state law requires.

Billow said state law mandates that statements outline the proposed debt from the bond votes, not all debts already incurred by the county. The proposed general obligation bonds keep the county well below the 8 percent of tax revenue level, at 1.85 percent.

“I understand, I really do,” Humphrey said. “It bothers me that the people are not getting totally accurate information if you go by this document. I understand it’s the law, but that doesn’t make it (right) to me.”

He said the proposals will add $60 million to the county’s $20 million indebtedness. The people should decide, but they need all of the facts, Humphrey said.

Billows said that nobody is trying to hide any numbers. “I have no dog in this fight.” The county can spend money to inform voters, he said, but not to sway voters.

Because the high school bond is specific, it can only be spent for one purpose – building a new high school on the Farmington Road site already owned by the county.

The recreation bond is another story. Board members were presented with two options, one for $5 million for recreation as the board sees fit, and a second option for $5 million, with $3.9 million of that designated for re-purposing the current Davie High site.

After a bond passes, the county has seven years to sell the bonds.

If the school bond fails and the recreation bond passes, the second option would mean that just over $1 million would be available for recreation. If the first option for the recreation bond was to pass, it would be up to the board to decide how to spend the money.

The board chose the first option, with Richard Poindexter and Terry Renegar voting against it.

Poindexter said the second option gives the public more information and provides detail, “ … instead of a trust me type thing.”

Renegar said specifics are needed. “To put it out there as a blank check, it will not pass. I’m not sure what changed … but I think we need to be specific.”

Board member Mark Jones said if the bonds pass, he is committed to spending the $3.9 million for repurposing the current Davie High facility as proposed – for a new central office for schools and a county recreation center, including ball fields.

Board Chair Robert Wisecarver said he prefers the county having “free reign” with the money. “I don’t want to be limited where we’re going to spend it.”

Humphrey questioned whether the money – $3.9 million – would be enough, also questioning the word “demolish.”

“Words are important,” Humphrey said. “Demolish – there’s not much meaning unless you go a step further. In my mind, demolish is one thing.”

Does it include hauling fees? Does it include funds if asbestos is found? “It’s a bit of a roll of the dice. With something like asbestos … it can be an expensive monster.”

Billow said the state law defines demolish, and it includes related costs but the bond order doesn’t go into specifics. “It’s so the voters will generally understand the purpose.”

On Monday, Feb. 3, the board will hold a public hearing on the proposed bond orders. After that, they can adopt a resolution calling for a vote.