By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke County local government is considering or pursuing several options to increase access to water resources to keep up with customer demand.
Potentially the biggest addition could be the McCain water system. Now that both the former correctional hospital and the prison are shut down, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is apparently looking to get out of the water business in Hoke County. It’s created an opportunity for Hoke local government to act to secure that resource for customers, county officials said.
County Manager Letitia Edens gave an update on the matter during the manager’s report at the commission meeting last week. The county commissioners first publicly discussed the possibility of leasing or buying the McCain water system during a meeting in June of last year, when they authorized drafting a memorandum of agreement with the state.
That project is still a possibility: county officials recently met with Secretary Eddie Buffaloe Jr. of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to talk about the options, Edens said.
“We have been in talks with Secretary Buffaloe with DPS in regards to McCain (water system). So we’re talking about getting that property and leasing it and what we need to do with it, putting additional wells on it,” Edens said.
The county manager made clear after the meeting that commissioners haven’t decided on a course of action yet and the project is still a work in progress. The utilities director, county manager and the county attorney plan to bring the matter back before the commission in the near future for further consideration.
The county already had an existing agreement to buy water from the McCain water plant. Hoke bought over 67 million gallons of water from the facility in 2020, at a cost of about $87,000, Commission Vice Chairman Tony Hunt said the first time the matter came up in June 2021.
The county is also looking at other options for increasing water resource access.
“We’re in talks with PWC and we’re in talks with Raeford in regards to water,” Edens said.
The county has a standing agreement with Fayetteville Public Works Commission to purchase water from the PWC, especially when local supplies run low due to periods of extreme summer heat or dryness. PWC is working on its utilities near the Cumberland/Hoke county line, including building a water tower close to eastern Hoke.
The county is also in the engineering phase of plans for an interconnection between the county and city water systems. The interconnection will allow the county to purchase water from the city of Raeford’s water supply. The city has had a water surplus in recent years after the House of Raeford, once its largest customer, closed the poultry processing plant.
The county plans to continue pursuing water options with new utilities director James McQueen.
“We’ve been working diligently with the new utilities director and our two commissioners on the utilities committee. We’re diligently not just working on sewer, we’re working on water also to ensure that the county is stable with our water and everything,” Edens said.
Commission Chairman Allen Thomas commended county staff for their work on the utilities projects.