The decision about whether or not the City of Wilmington will issue a $44 million general obligation bond for street and sidewalk improvements will come down to a citizen vote in the November 2014 elections.
At its meeting on Tuesday, July 8, Wilmington City Council unanimously voted to place the bond order on the November ballot after a brief public hearing.
With an additional $11 million leveraged by the city, the bond package would total $55 million and require a 2-cent property tax increase for city residents.
The bond would include $35 million for roadway projects and $20 for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects to be included in the bond are new sidewalks along Oleander Drive, Wrightsville Avenue and 17th Street; crosswalks at intersections of Wilshire Boulevard with Kerr Avenue and College Road, and Holly Tree and College roads; and trails along Greenville Loop Road, Kerr Avenue, College Road and Masonboro Loop Road.
Roadway projects include Eastwood Road medians and traffic signals, realignment of the intersection at Oleander and Pine Grove drives, three roundabouts and a second entrance to the Love Grove community on Wilmington’s north side.
Former city councilman Ronald Sparks was present for the public hearing to voice his support for the bond order.
“You can’t fix everything that is broken in Wilmington and at the same time this is a small down payment on addressing the needs of the entire city,” Sparks said. “Thankfully in this particular bond there is some relief for the people of Love Grove. … The people of Love Grove support this bond 100 percent.”
In addition to Sparks, 12 other citizens voiced support of the bond order on behalf of the Love Grove community.
No one else spoke in support of or in opposition to the bond order at the public hearing.
If the bond is approved the 2-cent property tax increase required to pay for it would amount to an additional $40 a year from a property valued at $200,000.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the city should take responsibility for the future of its transportation needs.
“This community will have an opportunity to vote on its future and the future of the improvements to the community,” Saffo said. “If we want to take care of our roads and infrastructure we as citizens are going to have to do it. The funding from outside sources has literally dried up so we have to either take the bull by the horns and make our own destiny or just have a bunch of roads that continue to fall apart.”
Proof of the dwindling state and federal funding for transportation improvements came later during city council’s meeting when council was asked to support a speed limit reduction on Kerr Avenue as part of the future Kerr Avenue widening project.
After Councilman Kevin O’Grady inquired about funding for the project, Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Mike Kozlosky said, with federal highway funds from the Highway Trust Fund in jeopardy, the project was identified as one that could be cut.
“This just accents the point the mayor made earlier,” O’Grady said. “We have to take control of our lives because the governments above us are not functioning very well so it is up to us to keep working.”
Council did support the resolution for a reduction of the Kerr Avenue speed limit to 35 mph between Fairlawn Drive and Randall Parkway and to plant trees in the medians that would be installed with the widening project.