By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Some of West Hoke’s water pipes will get an upgrade at an effectively discounted cost to the county, when the state widens N.C. 211 between Raeford and Aberdeen to a four-lane road.
The Hoke County Board of Commissioners voted September 21 to install 12-inch water pipes along eight miles of N.C. 211, from Raeford to McCain.
While the upgrade would cost about $6.6 million in total, the county will pay only about $1.3 million for the project. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will pay for the rest as part of the road widening.
The state will have to move around some of the county’s water system pipes as part of the road widening, once construction gets underway in a few years, Hoke Utilities Director Hilton Villines told the board members at their meeting.
Adam Kiker of LKC Engineering in Aberdeen explained more about the project. The pipe replacement is going to have to happen when NCDOT widens the road, Kiker said.
“You do have a water line on Highway 211 now that is going to be in conflict with their construction,” he said. “…They pay for the engineering and they pay for the construction to relocate that water line. They will also, if you would like to request of them…they will allow you to upsize the pipe to prepare for a growth corridor.”
The state agency would normally replace the existing 8-inch water pipes with new 8-inch pipes, and pay for the roughly $5.4 million cost through the project’s funds. But if the county took advantage of the work to have larger 12-inch water pipes installed, the county would only have to cover the cost difference of about $1.3 million.
The board members discussed the plans before taking a vote on the measure. Several commissioners spoke favorably of the idea.
“All of this is going to take place, they’re going to put together the engineering of it and then when they widen 211, all of this work takes place at that time,” Commissioner Tony Hunt said. “They’re going to move some of our pipes anyway, so it’s a great opportunity for us to upsize that pipe and get water from McCain.”
Having larger pipes could help provide increased water capacity for future growth in West Hoke in years to come. The pipes are designed to last between 50 and 75 years, Villines said.
The board planned to take the money out of the county’s water and sewer enterprise fund balance, which would leave about $3.7 million remaining in that fund, officials said. The water and sewer enterprise fund balance is separate from the county’s general fund.
The commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the plan. The construction for the four-lane widening project is slated to start in a few years, after NCDOT conducts right-of-way property buyouts along N.C. 211 between Raeford and Aberdeen.
Senior Services grant funding
Hoke County Senior Services received over $116,000 in grant funding that will help pay for meals and groceries for senior citizens through a variety of programs.
The grant funding included $33,288 from the Family First funding, and $83,506 from the CARES Act funding, Hoke Senior Services Director Mary Hollingsworth told the board.
The funds will mostly go to provide food through at-home meal deliveries, as well as some cleaning supplies and personal care necessities like toilet paper. Some of the funding will also go to help support the Senior Services department’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department plans to use $11,096 of funding to cover the costs of 1,816 for congregate feeding site participants who were on the waiting list, and $22,192 for 3,585 meals for home delivery participants on the waiting list. Another $23,069 will go to pay for meals for temporary home delivery clients, and $10,000 to buy groceries for people in the home delivery and congregate feeding site programs.
The congregate feeding sites have been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic, with Senior Services staff and Parks and Recreation staff members delivering meals to those participants.
Several of the programs have certain state-mandated requirements that seniors must meet to qualify. The programs are limited to a certain number of people and often have a waiting list. The Hoke County Commissioners added more money earlier this year to be able to add more people. The pandemic-related grant funding will help temporarily serve additional seniors, officials said.
Another $15,000 will go to hiring a temporary part-time employee to help assess, enroll, schedule and help manage the temporary home delivery program participants. Other funds will go toward PPE/care bags for seniors, cleaning supplies and tables and outdoor seating for the senior center.
In other business, the commissioners heard a presentation by the Hardy Consulting Group, which is working to raise awareness about training opportunities for people interested in careers in highway construction. Laura Hardy represented the organization, which is working with NCDOT to bring the 2020-2021 Highway Construction Trades Academy to the Cumberland/Hoke region. The commissioners agreed to draft a letter of support for the partnership.
The commission approved a four-item consent agenda, including a Hoke County forest timber sale contract with Great Woods Companies of Bennettsville, South Carolina. With the advice of the forestry service, and working with Milliken Forestry Company, Inc. and Jesse Wimberly of the N.C. Sandhills Prescribed Burn Association, the county plans to thin some of the Hoke Community Forest and sell the timber.
The land that is cut will be reforested with native longleaf pine trees. Citizens may see some clear-cutting in areas planned for longleaf pine tree reforesting, and controlled burning used to clear out undergrowth.
The Hoke Community Forest includes about 514 acres of land north of Raeford, off of both sides of Vass Road.