GREENVILLE – Connect NC bonds got a vote of approval from East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees Friday. The board voted unanimously to endorse the $2 billion bond referendum that is slated to be on ballots statewide on March 15, 2016.
ECU is the state’s third largest university and would get $90 million of the bond for new Life Science and Biotechnology building. The trustees hope to use the new facility to draw top-level researchers and students in technology and engineering.
“Our proposed location of the biological sciences and engineering in this new facility will lead to smart solutions in medicine, advanced manufacturing and agriculture,” said ECU Provost Ron Mitchelson. “It’s a rare opportunity for economic development and regional transformation.”
The Connect NC bond proposal passed the General Assembly at the end of the marathon session in September. If approved by voters this spring, it would provide some funding for 13 universities and 58 community colleges across the state, as well as the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Critics have expressed concerns about the state taking on debt through the bond, but supporters say the bond makes fiscal sense because bond rates are low and alternative is to defer maintenance and projects across the state.
Originally proposed by McCrory as a $2.75 billion bond, N.C. Connect remained largely intact, but lost some of the new projects in infrastructure construction as it moved through the General Assembly. Lawmakers kept the projects for higher-education facilities, military communities and water and sewer grants, but most plans in the bond for upgrades to transportation infrastructure — and other projects, such as a new visitor’s center at the U.S.S. North Carolina battleship — were scrapped.
“This bond represents a strong investment in the future of North Carolina. A great institution in our state, East Carolina University, showed its support to build a solid future for our economy, our educational system and most importantly, our children,” said Jim Rose, Regional President for Yadkin Bank, and co-chair of the Connect NC committee.
Projects in 76 counties across the state ae also slated for a financial infusion from the bond, including agricultural development projects, park improvements and water and sewer system improvements.