County ups fees, could increase new home costs

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • People buying newly built homes hooked on to county water and sewer services will likely see an increase in their purchase price, after county leaders voted to increase the local system development fees.

The Hoke County Board of Commissioners voted last Monday to increase the fees charged to homebuilders to hook on to the county’s sewer and water services. The increases upped the cost from $1,200 to $1,600 for sewer, and from $820 to $1,800 for water.

“Tell us why we need to do this,” Hoke County Commission Chairman Harry Southerland said to county Utilities Director Hilton Villines.

“The system development fees pays for infrastructure projects that we need to do within the department,” Villines explained.

Commissioner Tony Hunt discussed that the state changed the law over how counties charge development fees for running utility services to new-build homes.

“We have to pay for all of that work to get sewer up to where you hook up. In the past the developer could help with that cost but they don’t do that now,” he said. Now, the cost is passed on to the builder, who typically passes it on to the homebuyer.

The county hopes to extend sewer and water service into the Rockfish area, especially in the area of Rockfish Hoke Elementary. The elementary school has been having problems with its septic tank system, Hunt said.

Southerland pointed out that Hoke is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, sitting just behind much larger metropolitan areas such as Mecklenburg County.

“Y’all see all the houses go up, you see the dirt moving all across this great county,” he said. New homes also means more people, which means needing to build more schools and infrastructure to support the population, the chairman said.

Although the rates have increased, effective immediately, they’re still “very competitive” compared to the system development fees of other counties in the region, Commission Vice Chairman Allen Thomas said.

Other business

The commissioners approved a four-item consent agenda, including reappointing Hoke Economic Development Director Will Wright and County Clerk Gwen McGougan to the Southeastern Economic Development Commission Board; budged amendments for the county Finance department; and minutes from the prior meeting.

In other business:
•The board voted to accept an offer of bid to purchase surplus county property off of Stevens Street

•The board authorized advertising bids on surplus county property located at 219 Branchwood Lane, and at Jeff Road

•Tax collection is at a similar rate to last year, at over 96 percent of owed tax payments collected.

•Lorraine Landry and Rev. Al Anderson of the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council reported they expect to receive $165,302 in funding for the next fiscal year. Landry and Anderson discussed the funding for the JCPC, which goes to pay for programs such as “Project Reverso” Teen Court, community service, structured day and mentoring to support youth. Many of the programs are conducted by Maggie’s Outreach in Raeford.

Southerland requested an update on Teen Court operations, which have been held virtually over the last year due to the pandemic.

“Something that impacts our young people is always important to this board here,” Southerland said, noting that the county is preparing to work on its annual budget.

Last year the Teen Court expanded its membership, had zero recidivism and today has a roster of about 25 passionate youth working with it, program directors told the board.

Commission Vice Chairman Allen Thomas thanked JCPC and those involved in helping young people in Hoke.

“I know how important it is to keep our children out of the system, thank you for your dedication to the youth of Hoke County,” he said.

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