Lawmakers: No opposition to COA-Dare bill

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Currituck Commissioner Bobby Hanig


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, February 11, 2019

Officials are hoping the third time will be the charm for passing legislation to help College of The Albemarle build a new campus in Dare County.

State Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, and state Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, have both introduced legislation that would allow COA to apply state bond money toward a new campus at its 132 Russell Twiford Road site, which is the former Manteo Middle School.

In interviews last week, both lawmakers said they've encountered no opposition to the proposal.

The COA bill represents unfinished business and a campaign priority for Steinburg, who proposed the legislation in 2017, following voters’ approval of the “Connect NC” bond the year prior. Connect NC is a $2 billion bond package that has funded new construction and renovations to buildings on the state’s community college and university campuses. COA got a portion of the money, and wanted to apply $1.5 million toward a new campus in Dare.

Those plans ran into a snag however, because Connect NC funds are limited to improvements on property owned by colleges or universities. COA wants to build its new campus at the old Manteo Middle School site, which is owned by Dare County.

To fix the issue, Steinburg introduced legislation allowing community colleges to use Connect NC money on facilities they don't own, provided they have a long-term lease guaranteeing use of the property.

The legislation faced opposition, however, in 2017 from Steinburg’s and Hanig's predecessors in the Senate and House, former Sen. Bill Cook and former Rep. Beverly Boswell, respectively, and stalled in the Senate last year. Cook retired last year, while Boswell lost her primary election last spring to Hanig.

Steinburg said last year the COA legislation would be the first bill he'd introduce this session, and it was. He filed Senate Bill 6 last week. Hanig followed by filing a companion bill in the House, House Bill 19.

“I don't anticipate any problems,” Steinburg said of the legislation's passage in an interview Thursday. He's told other senators of its importance, and he's trying to get it passed “as quickly as possible,” he said.

The General Assembly's website shows both bills have been referred to education or appropriations committees.

Steinburg said COA and Dare County officials are eager to get the work started.

Hanig similarly said no House representatives have problems with the bill, and stressed its importance for providing a modern, conveniently-located campus for Outer Banks residents.

“It's time to step into the 21st century,” Hanig said, adding a Dare County campus remains important for students who can't drive an hour or longer to the campus in Elizabeth City.

Hanig also noted Dare County plans to pay for most of the project, which is estimated to cost $7.5 million.

COA is “very excited” to see the bill reintroduced, college spokeswoman Jenna Hatfield said in an email Thursday.

She also said COA and Dare County plan to demolish the old middle school building and build a new facility on the site. The Professional Arts Building on the site would still be used, she noted.

Negotiations with Dare County continue, but it would be responsible for constructing the facility, Hatfield said. How big the facility would be, and what it will cost, is to be determined, she said.

The new facility will house all programs currently offered at the Dare County campus, Hatfield said, adding COA and Dare County officials continue to consider adding new programs.