Gov. Cooper signs law approving bond funds to renovate COA campus in Manteo

The current campus along U.S. 64 is a combination of old and new buildings. Some are shutdown due to mold issues, including the auditorium (right). [Google Maps image]

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Friday approval to give Dare County money needed to renovate the Roanoke Island campus for College of the Albemarle, and permission to manage and maintain the buildings while leasing them to the community college.

Senate Bill 6., which cleared both the state House and Senate on unanimous votes after being introduced by Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-Edenton), will let Dare County use funds from the ConnectNC Bond approved by voters in 2016.

Money will be matched by the county to renovate existing buildings and construct new ones, while moving most classrooms and offices to the campus along U.s. 64 that was once Manteo High School and then Manteo Middle School, and repurposing of the Russell Twiford Road campus.

The county can then enter a 30-year lease for the buildings with the COA Board of Trustees.

A key part of the law being approved is the county is not required to follow some policies during the design and construction of the buildings, that are required by what many view as antiquated rules when the state issues a contract.

One example that has been previously cited is having to use boiler-style systems for heat and air conditioning in college buildings, which many times requires technicians from outside the region to construct, repair and maintain.

Instead, the county can choose local companies to do that work, creating good will with the business community, along with short- and long-term cost savings.

This was not the first attempt to give Dare County state bond money and the other powers for College of the Albemarle.

A bill sponsored in 2017 by Steinburg when he was in the House initially included both Dare and Currituck counties, but was opposed by former Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills), who voted against it. An amended version that put Dare back in failed to clear the legislature.

Former Sen. Bill Cook (R-Chocowinity) also opposed the bill. The Dare County language was stripped out before it passed the General Assembly. The Currituck building will be used by COA for its public safety program offerings.

Last year, Steinburg introduced a bill to give Dare County the bond money, but after clearing the House it stalled in the Senate on a technicality.

Steinburg, who was elected in 2018 to the state Senate, pledged during the campaign that the first bill he would introduce this session was the COA Dare bill, and promised it would finally gain approval.

Rep. Bobby Hanig (R-Powells Point) introduced matching legislation in the House, but the Senate quickly moved their version through, precluding the House bill.

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