Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday was blunt about his reaction to UNC Charlotte’s aged science building: “It wasn’t pretty.”
But if voters approve the $2 billion bond issue he’s pushed for months, McCrory said a new, $90 million science facility could replace the overcrowded Burson Science Building on UNCC’s campus.
He called the bond issue a “strategic investment in our future infrastructure.”
“The need is clear,” he said to a crowd of students, lawmakers and university leaders at UNCC. “We’ve got dilapidated buildings and parks and infrastructure throughout our state. It’s not if we need to repair them and fix them and rebuild them. It’s when.”
The bond issue, called Connect N.C., would borrow $2 billion to boost the state’s parks, agricultural and water and sewer systems, and bring major repairs to buildings at several state universities and community colleges across 76 counties. A referendum will be March 15.
Half of the bond money would go to higher education, including $980 million for upgrades in the UNC system, and won’t require a tax increase. An additional $350 million would go to the state’s community college system for renovations.
The governor’s stop at UNC Charlotte was his last in a statewide campaign to sway voters to approve the bond issue. He kicked his tour off Wednesday in Raleigh before visiting Kinston and Stone Mountain.
UNC Charlotte last got bond money in 2000, when nearly $200 million went to constructing seven academic buildings. But over the years, the Burson Science Building has gone without a makeover, Chancellor Philip Dubois said.
When McCrory toured the facility in April, he saw that its lab teachers could not see from one end of the lab to students on the other. The facility was built for 50 fume hoods for chemistry labs. Today, it has 205.
“To quote a Buick commercial, your science lab looks like my grandmother’s science lab,” McCrory said.
“When it was constructed, it was constructed for a much smaller” university, Dubois said. “There haven’t been enough repairs and renovations.”
If the bond issue passes, construction on a new science building could take four to five years, he said.
McCrory touted the measure as a bipartisan effort despite opposition from lawmakers that resulted in a scaled-back version that cut about $1 billion for road and highway improvements. “I’m coming back for the other third,” McCrory said.
“We got two-thirds of what we wanted,” McCrory said. “I’m coming back for the other third.”
Rep. Rodney Moore, a Mecklenburg Democrat, said he hopes lawmakers make roads funding a top priority in the upcoming short session. “It’s absolutely necessary if you look at ... the critical needs we have here in the state,” he said.
The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.
Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov