By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • After rescinding original plans to put a law enforcement gun range near the Hoke County animal shelter, county commissioners will instead consider putting it at the back of wooded property at the county’s wastewater treatment plant.
First, they’ll hold a public hearing to get feedback from any citizens who might have concerns about the proposed location.
Hoke County Sheriff Roderick Virgil approached the board Monday night to suggest the new location. The wastewater treatment plant is located off of Ellis Road, which is located off of Arabia Road.
The range would be set back off of the road, right next to the plant, based on maps shown at the meeting. The berm would be toward the back of the property. Beyond that is wetland that’s not suitable for construction, officials said.
“We modeled this after several neighboring counties, Scotland County in particular. Their firing range is on the other side of their water plant,” Virgil told commissioners. “I want to say Richmond County is, also. We went and we located this property and it suits our needs, falls within all of the guidelines for a range and a training ground. With your blessing, this would do it for us.”
The property is about three acres out of 20 acres of land. The land at the wastewater treatment plant doesn’t have any houses on it. However, there are several existing homes across the street from the treatment plant, according to the map.
The outdoor shooting range would allow Hoke and Raeford law enforcement officers to qualify with their weapons, as required by law, without having to travel outside of the county. For many years, the sheriff’s office used a privately-owned location for that purpose, which Virgil previously told the board was not an ideal solution.
Before his passing in 2021, the late Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin had been in talks with commissioners about building a range for local law enforcement, according to officials. Virgil brought the matter to the board for the first time in December 2021, shortly after he was appointed sheriff.
Commissioners initially approved a proposal to put the shooting range near the animal control shelter located off of CC Steele Road, but reversed course after hearing concerns from the public that the noise could upset the animals at the shelter. The board rescinded that vote and asked the sheriff to consider other location options.
Virgil brought the new site proposal to the commission this week. Several commissioners spoke favorably of the location, with Commissioner Harry Southerland confirming first that there aren’t any homes on the property itself. Several board members also said they wanted to take a more cautious approach than last time.
“I would propose that if we’re going to go with this site that we have a public hearing on it before we go down this road again, and that way at least people will be given the opportunity to give their input, especially if they live over in that area, before we approve this,” Commission Vice Chairman Tony Hunt said.
Chairman Allen Thomas agreed and said the board would set a public hearing for a future date.
“Absolutely, I think I’ve already spoken to the county manager that a public hearing will be necessary, and also that I would like to personally visit the site and take a look at it for myself and see the house…that’s a long way, almost 1,000 feet, but I still want to see it, listen, see if I can hear cars from the road from the site that we’re hoping of doing,” Thomas said.
“We’re going to do this diligently…we heard the public loud and clear the last go-around, and we’re going to make sure that we adapt and improve when it comes to this very serious issue.”
The chairman said he thought it was a “great location,” but wanted to give anyone who might disagree a chance to speak up.
Commissioners questioned whether it would be better to build an indoor shooting range. Virgil said that would be an ideal option, but that the cost was prohibitive.