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Residents invited to comment on bonds
[July 21, 2007]

Residents invited to comment on bonds

(Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jul. 21--Durham County residents will have their first chance Monday night to comment on three bond issues totaling $210 million they will see on the ballot this fall.

The county has scheduled a 7 p.m. public hearing on the bonds, which include $196.77 million for the Durham Public Schools, $8.7 million for Durham Tech and $4.2 million for the Museum of Life and Science.

The hearing, at which the bond referendum's official wording also will be approved, will take place in the County Commissioners' chambers in the old Durham County Courthouse on Main Street downtown.

No one showed up to speak at a May public hearing on the county's capital improvement plan, which included the bonds.

Commissioner Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow said she doesn't expect a crowd this time either.

"It's hard to know," she said. "But I don't remember much of any turnout during the last bond. Maybe a few people."

The likelihood the bonds -- the first of three sets to be floated within the next decade -- will pass has been debated.

A recent survey of county voters found that about half of all people contacted said they would approve the bonds. About 17 percent said they were unsure, and the remainder said they would vote against it.

Preliminary plans call for a 2009 bond to fund $112 million in renovations to schools and $10.8 million to libraries. Details have yet to be laid out for a 2013 bond.

Some Durham residents have objected to the bond because the County Commissioners also voted to raise taxes this year by 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Lavonia Allison, chairwoman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, told the board that this year is "the absolute worst time in the world to float a bond referendum," since both city and county taxes are up.

"There is a lot of unhappiness," Allison said. "Any way you look at it, any time you have a bond referendum you have more taxes."

Also Monday night, the commissioners plan to take a second look at an ordinance banning panhandling in roadways outside the city limits.

The board first looked at -- and passed -- the ordinance in April. But because the board didn't vote unanimously, it has to adopt the ordinance a second time before it becomes law.

That didn't occur in May or June because Commissioner Lewis Cheek -- who introduced it -- was absent. Because of the lag, the board plans to treat Monday night's discussion as its first look at the proposal.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.
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