Cary News

Apex considers transportation bond referendum

Local voters could be asked to approve a bond referendum in November to complete Apex Peakway and tackle other transportation projects.

At the Apex Town Council’s annual retreat on Friday, town staff presented pitches for potential bonds.

Council members told staffers to bring them more details within 30 days regarding a potential transportation bond. They agreed to put off the parks and recreation referendum for at least another year.

Roads and traffic are clearly high on the board’s list of priorities. Every council member was allowed to vote for one major theme as this year’s priority, as well as vote on capital projects they want to see completed.

Four of the six board members said transportation should be the top priority, with the other two votes going toward economic development.

Many of the most popular capital projects were also for road improvements, although Town Manager Bruce Radford said those projects would likely be taken off the pending capital projects list and moved instead to a bond referendum.

“If it’s road-related, it could and probably should be rolled in a referendum,” Radford said.

Bonds give citizens the chance to vote on major projects, often in excess of $10 million or $20 million dollars at the municipal level. Since smaller towns such as Apex can’t budget such projects all at once, bonds allow them to take on debt.

In order to get on November’s ballot, a bond proposal must be submitted to the state by June.

Apex has had a AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s since 2009 – the best possible rating. That means the town would get low interest rates on any loans it took out to fund roads, parks or other bond items.

Since many of the most popular capital projects could be moved into a bond, the council may have to rethink some of their priorities.

Council member Bill Jensen also said he wanted to know more about potential project costs, since that could affect his vote on prioritizing. Several others agreed.

Mayor Bill Sutton noted that one of their popular projects is a senior center. But plans for that are years down the road, he said, wondering what that contrast between opinion and planning might mean.

Radford said the senior center would probably be included in a parks bond at some later date.

Other candidates for a parks bond include 90 acres south of town that will be known as Pleasant Park, which Apex wants to turn into a regional draw for soccer, lacrosse and other tournaments.

Another parks project lower on the priority list is the potential creation of a park in northwest Apex. But it only got two of six votes from council members.

“That’s been up there for 10 years, and it’s never received enough votes for us to do anything,” Radford said. “It’s got more votes now than it has in the past.”

Radford said he took that as an indication the council wants staff to finish up other projects, such as Pleasant Park or the senior center, before turning its attention elsewhere.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran