What do flooding mitigation projects, a litter pilot program and a new middle school have in common?
All are quality-of-life projects, along with more than a dozen other items, that made it into the N.C. House budget and would benefit residents of District 10 and eastern North Carolina, House Majority Leader John Bell said.
Those projects are from a list of key items secured by Bell in the House’s proposed version of the state budget.
Secured “means I got it in the budget,” Bell said in a telephone interview Aug. 27.
The biggest item on the list provided by Bell’s office is “$800 million for disaster-related programs and projects, including $100 million for long-term flood mitigation and resiliency projects to better prepare North Carolina for natural disasters.”
Bell said the flood mitigation projects would function as part of a massive statewide mitigation program. He said he had met with people on both sides of the aisle in search of “shovel-ready” projects to help counteract chronic flooding.
“It’s great to do a bunch of projects, but in reality you’ve got to have a plan,” Bell said. “We’re taking a very strategic approach to statewide flood mitigation.”
The House budget includes $20 million for a new Rosewood Middle School. The money will create options for local officials to pursue as they work to determine a course of action regarding the school, Bell said. He spoke of possible historic preservation tax credits for adaptive reuse of the school, built in the 1920s.
Bell said he understood the importance of that school to the community, “so I stepped in to try to help.”
Bell, a Republican from Wayne County, represents House District 10, which comprises portions of Wayne County, Johnston County and all of Greene County.
The House version of the budget passed on Aug. 12 with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority. The budget now is in the hands of House and Senate negotiators crafting a compromise spending plan.
Bell wasn’t ready to discuss the specifics of those negotiations, except to say that everything on his list is “still on the table.”
Other items on Bell’s list with appropriations of $1 million or more are:
• $215 million for a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
• $10 million for Neuse River home acquisition and buyouts to move families out of floodplains.
• $5.2 million for a Seven Springs levee as referenced in the May 1, 2018, Neuse River Basin Flood Analysis and Mitigation Strategy report.
• $5 million for Stoney Creek acquisitions to provide benefit throughout the watershed to the most vulnerable structures and communities.
• $2 million to The Independence Fund for the No Veteran Left Behind Project.
• $1 million for a new inmate litter crew pilot project.
Some of the projects also are covered in the Senate’s version of the budget, although some of those projects appear in the Senate’s budget under different names or funding models, Bell said.
Also on Bell’s list are:
• $750,000 to the town of Princeton for drainage pipe replacement at Princeton High School.
• $600,000 to the town of Walstonburg for water and sewer infrastructure improvements.
• $500,000 to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for a new mobile command unit.
• $500,000 to the American Legion Wayne Post 11 to repair damage from hurricanes Florence and Matthew.
• $250,000 to the Wayne Pregnancy Care Center for Cry Freedom Missions, fighting to eradicate sex trafficking through reaching, restoring, equipping, empowering and employing survivors.
• $50,000 to the N.C. Troopers Association Caisson Unit to support the mission of the State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit.
• $25,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro-Wayne to support the efforts to provide qualified families with the opportunity of affordable homeownership.
• $10,000 to the 135th USCT Research Team for promotion and preservation of the history of the 135th U.S. Colored Troop.
• Naming the bridge on O’Berry Road crossing U.S. 117 in Wayne County as the “Trooper Nolan Sanders Bridge.”
House and Senate budget negotiators are trying to arrive at a compromise plan by mid-September, Bell said.
If the final version is approved by both chambers, the budget will be presented to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.
Bell said he is doing everything he can to approach the needs of the state as a whole. At the same time, the people of District 10 expect to have a voice in the legislature.
“I’m doing everything I can do to make sure it’s heard loud and clear,” he said.