Winston-Salem city leaders add $2 million to the sidewalk repair bond | @Daniel_Schere

Winston-Salem City Leaders discussed a bond referendum totaling more than $139 million at their meeting Monday night. The package includes a variety of infrastructure imp rovements such as sidewalk repairs, street repairs, parks and recreation improvements and other issues related to public safety.

Although there was little discussion at the meeting of each individual item, the council voted to add $2 million to the sidewalk repair bond, which totals $42.3 million.

Resident Nick Hristov was one of a few residents who made public comments regarding the repairs. He said he is fully supportive of the measure but thinks the council has been moving slowly compared to other cities.

“Other communities around the country can do this faster and more effectively,” he said. “I think about what is it that those cities have that we don’t have and I see no explanation for why that is the case.”

Hristov, a professor at Wake Forest University, says he understands the urgency of infrastructure repairs such as sidewalks.

“These make a difference,” he said. “They’re not just accidental or incidental in our communities.”

In addition to the sidewalk repairs, the package includes $31 million for public safety, $30.8 million for parks and recreation, $10 million for housing and $25 million for economic development.

Money in the public safety bond will go toward the construction of the Public Safety Center and the Alexander Beaty Public Safety Training and Support Center in addition to police district facilities and fire station renovations. The housing bond will be used to help provide home buyer assistance to first time buyers who are of low or moderate income. It will also be used to help fund urban renewal projects. The economic development bond will be used in funding projects such as Merschel Plaza as well as making grants and loans to business owners in targeted commercial areas.

The council will hold a public hearing at it’s meeting on August 4, where it will vote on the bond measures.

Councilman Jeff MacIntosh said Winston-Salem has not passed a bond referendum since the early 2000’s, but the recession caused the council to rethink its strategy for raising funds.

“Having gone through the economic downturn, it’s been very difficult to ask people to step up,” he said. “Now that things are beginning to turn around a little seems like a good time to ask people to invest a little in infrastructure.”

MacIntosh said he feels comfortable asking residents to help with the city’s effort of improving infrastructure, like roads and sidewalks.

“I served on the capital needs committee about three years ago, and we identified all the capital needs in the city,” he said. “It’s far larger than what we’re actually going out to ask for. So it’s a difficult process to cut it down to the bare essentials.”

MacIntosh said so far he has received mostly positive feedback from the community, mainly because sidewalks are one of the “most visible things” that are in need of repair.

“One of the reasons we’ve asked for $2 million more for streets and sidewalks is that we got lots of comments about it,” he said.

MacIntosh said that in the face of increased costs for businesses, city projects are increasing as a result. He added that Winston-Salem had kept taxpayer costs low for a long time compared to the other cities around the state but the need to deliver services requires something in return for residents.

“It’s very difficult to run a city people want to live in if you’re not going to raise property taxes,” he said.

MacIntosh added that he felt the bond increase was a combination of the community’s wants and needs.

“Sidewalks and greenways are kind of the sexy part of it,” he said. “People want that but a lot of the rest of the budget just goes to solid infrastructure. Things that we’re going to need.”

In addition to discussing the bond referendum, the council also approved the rezoning of the property at Old Cherry No.2 in the Northwest Ward located within the boundaries of Fourteenth Street, University Parkway, Twenty-Third Street, and Pittsburg Avenue/Garfield Avenue. Two lots on the property are being purchased by Habitat for Humanity in order to accommodate single family/duplex residential units.

The council also voted to approve the demolition of three buildings which had been in disrepair and had received a host of safety violations. The properties on which they are located are 608 East 27th Street, 5015 Old Rural Hall Road and 1412 East 25th Street. !