Commissioner backs bond

To the Editor,

To the good citizens of Surry and surrounding counties I write this letter to encourage you to support the Connect NC Bond referendum on March 15, 2016. The $2 billion bond will provide much-needed capital funding for our state’s community colleges, universities, National Guard Armories, state parks, and critical infrastructure upgrades to water and sewer systems across the state.

In my roles as a Surry County Commissioner and Surry Community College Trustee, I am particularly excited about the $350 million in funds to support our state’s 58 community colleges, and more specifically, the $7.22 million that Surry Community College will receive to enhance and repair our facilities in Surry and Yadkin Counties. In Surry County, the college will use the funds to repair and renovate existing forty-plus year-old buildings that are in need of repair. Several of the buildings require roof replacements, HVAC and lighting upgrades, interior ceiling, wall, and floor repair, and renovations/expansion which will streamline the services required to meet the instructional needs of our students. As part of the commitment to Yadkin County, the college plans to construct an industrial training facility which will enable its residents the opportunity to complete a technical degree at the Yadkin Center. Passage of the Connect NC Bond will directly and positively impact our ability to serve the citizens in our service area as we upgrade and expand existing facilities that are long overdue for improvement.

North Carolina’s community colleges are an essential component for continued economic growth and opportunity in our state. Surry Community College, the only institution of higher education in Surry and Yadkin counties, is certainly a critical partner in educating, training and developing the workforce in our area– a key factor for business and industry owners who are considering expansion and/or relocation to this area.

As a Surry Community College Alumnus, I have witnessed firsthand how the College directly and/or indirectly impacts everyone within our community. In fact, at some point during the course of our lives, we all interact with someone who has received their education, training, certification, or advanced certification from Surry Community College. The list is endless but could include a law enforcement officer, firefighter, paramedic, nurse, nursing assistant, physical therapist assistant, teacher, teacher assistant, day care worker, accountant, automotive technician, auto body repair person and countless others. I cannot emphasize what Surry Community College means to our community, to our families, to our public schools, and to our economic development. I witness, firsthand, that Surry Community College continually strives to provide the citizens of its service area courses and programs of the highest standard.

With the increasing costs of a college education over the last couple of decades, we are so fortunate to have Surry Community College in our region providing an affordable and high-quality education to our citizens. We are working hard to expand our Career & College Promise and Early College programs, which give high school students the opportunity to earn college credits tuition-free while they are still in high school. There is no reason any student in our region should not be able to obtain at least a two-year associate degree without being overburdened with student loan debt.

Beyond working with high school students and recent high school graduates, Surry Community College works with citizens of all ages to prepare them for advancement in the workforce. We provide the critical service of retraining displaced or underemployed workers to compete in today’s economy. As a result of the work we do with all of our students in preparing them for the workforce, Surry Community College is, indeed, one of the most important economic resources we have in our region.

During the last five years representing you on the Surry County Board of Commissioners we have investing heavily in Surry Community College. In 2013 we committed 2.2 million dollars to convert the 1960’s era HVAC system to natural gas and also $200,000 for a 50 plus acre property expansion. Many of these critical needs date to 1964 when the college was built. In the next couple of years the campus is facing over 1million in roof repairs alone. Time has simply taken its toll. But the taxpayers of Surry and surrounding counties can simply not afford to bear this burden alone.

Also know that this bond issue has broad bi-partisan support due to the fact that the state will be able to expend these bond funds without having to raise taxes. Even with the passage of this bond North Carolina will have less debt in 5 years than we do today. Our state legislature has been very fiscally responsible in managing our states financial resources and making NC a place that is conducive to business and industry. With our state’s outstanding AAA Bond Rating and historically low interest rates, the time is now to make this important investment in our state’s future. This is one more piece of the puzzle.

This bond will also provide 4.5 million to Pilot Mtn. State Park and 1.4 million to Stone Mtn. State Park. These 2 parks are the crown jewels of Northwest NC in an area that is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. They are an attraction and recreational destination not only for our local citizens but for people all over the world. When our citizens return after traveling far and away to other states and countries and get within site of that beautiful mountain with the big knob they know they are home.

My fellow citizens there is so much at stake here. This college and these parks have always been there for us when we needed them and now its time for us to be there for them. I encourage all of you to learn more about the Connect NC Bond Initiative, consider the tremendous positive impact it will have on our community, and vote “Yes” on the bond referendum on March 15.

In closing, I represent you with humility and respect and am grateful for the honor of which you have entrusted me. It has been my pleasure to represent you for the last 5 years. Contact me anytime.

Eddie Harris,

Surry County Commissioner