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Chapel Hill prepares for vote on $40.3 million bond referendum

In the Nov. 3 election, residents of Chapel Hill will vote on a $40.3 million bond referendum. The general order bond is divided into five areas. The town has sufficient funds to pay off the bond without raising taxes.

Streets and Sidewalks, $16.2 million

This area of the bond referendum includes projects for bike and pedestrian safety, sidewalk construction, street infrastructure and downtown streetscape improvements.

Bike and pedestrian safety projects would require $7.8 million and would include adding more bike lanes and crosswalk signals throughout the town.

Downtown streetscape projects would require $3 million and would include the addition of lights and pedestrian amenities in downtown Chapel Hill.

Street infrastructure projects would be funded by $3.4 million and would include the replacement of the 50-year-old Bolinwood Drive Bridge and street resurfacing projects.

Sidewalk construction projects would be allotted $2 million to repair, connect and construct new sidewalks that would improve pedestrian safety.

Wendy Simmons, solid waste services manager, said these improvements are needs based on several Chapel Hill town plans.

“In the latest community survey, overall flow of traffic and congestion ranked first in overall importance out of the 17 ranked service categories,” Simmons said in an email.

Trails and Greenways, $5 million

If this bond order is passed, the money would fund the expansion of two trails in the Chapel Hill greenway system.

The final section of the Morgan Creek Trail would be funded by $3 million and would connect the current trail to the Carrboro town line. The Bolin Creek Trail would require $2 million and would expand the current 1.5 mile-long trail from Pritchard Avenue to Jay Street.

Without the bond order for this area, the projects would be more or less dead, said Bill Webster, planning and development manager for the town’s Department of Parks and Recreation. 

Recreation Facilities, $8 million

This area of the referendum includes projects to renovate facilities at the Cedar Falls park and to build a new Community Programming Space and Parks and Recreation Administrative Space.

The facilities would require $7 million.

Park renovations would be funded by $1 million from the bond order and would include improvements to restrooms, signage, picnic shelters and trash receptacles.

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Webster said the town identified about $49 million in park needs.

Solid Waste Facilities, $5.2 million

This project would work to reduce costs for solid waste disposal. Since the Orange County Landfill by Rogers Road closed in 2013, Chapel Hill has transported its solid waste to a facility in Durham, which is more expensive and has negative environmental impacts. 

The bond order money would fund more cost effective and sustainable ways to transport solid waste.

“The town is reviewing various options and possibly partnering with other jurisdictions for the future disposal of garbage that is collected by the town,” Simmons said in an email.

Stormwater Improvements, $5.9 million

To improve drainage and prevent flooding in the town, this component of the bond referendum would fund various stormwater improvement projects.

In the latest community survey, the quality of the stormwater drainage system was ranked as the public works department’s most important maintenance service.

The current stormwater budget is funding studies on sub-water sheds to identify needs for projects that would improve drainage and water quality, said Chris Jensen, stormwater management engineer for the town.