New courthouse construction set to get underway in Hoke County

By Catharin Shepard • Editor • Hoke County will break ground on a long-awaited new courthouse at a ceremony set for 11 a.m. Thursday, February 29, 2024.

Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens and county commissioners confirmed the date at the board’s meeting Monday night.

Commissioners approved a change order for the bulk of the construction work on the project. The GMP2 remainder of packages that commissioners approved Monday amounted to $32,649,150.

The new contract sum brought the project total to $41,501,187. Including additional expenses such as furniture, fixtures, equipment, a site survey, geotechnical report and a third-party testing allowance, the cost came out to a total $42,768,687, or $827.30 per square-foot.

Most of the money for the new courthouse came from tens of millions of grant dollars the state awarded to Hoke County. Commissioners thanked Hoke’s state Rep. Garland Pierce and Sen. Danny Britt for their work in securing the funds for the county.

“He (Pierce) was very helpful and instrumental in helping us get the money, and we’ll also send an invitation out to Senator Britt as well,” Commission Vice Chairman Harry Southerland said.

“That’s a $31 million man sitting in the front seat there. Thank you, Garland,” Commission Chairman James Leach said, addressing Pierce, who was in the audience at the meeting.

The contractor anticipated getting the City of Raeford’s plat approval for the project this week, according to the change order documents. The documents showed an anticipated 720-day construction timeframe, putting the end date somewhere around early February, 2026.

The building is set for construction on the empty lot across the street from the historic courthouse. The project requires soil remediation work due to it being the former site of a dry-cleaning business, Ryan Parker of Metcon said. That work is slated to start next week.

“We’re excited to get moving on the building,” he said.

The project is nearly five years in the making. Commissioners formed a committee in 2019 to study the possibility of building a new courthouse. That same year, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James Webb, who is now retired, wrote a letter instructing commissioners to “plan for the construction and completion of an adequate new Hoke County judicial complex no later than the end of 2021.”

Inspection reports at the time cited safety and maintenance issues, and lack of sufficient space at the century-old courthouse. Although the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted progress on the project, commissioners resumed work on it in 2021 when the board chose Silling Architects to complete the design work. Metcon and J&K General Contractors are joint-venture partners for the construction.

The new courthouse will have multiple courtrooms, more office space, a jury pool room and improved safety features for transporting prisoners from the Hoke County jail, among other features.

The county tore down the condemned McLauchlin Hardware building in 2019, and last year demolished the former Willcox, McFadyen, Fields and Sutherland law firm building to make way for the new courthouse. The law firm is now located just one street over in its new office on East Elwood Avenue.

Hoke County’s historic courthouse, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, was built in 1911 – the same year Hoke got its charter as a county. Milburn, Heister & Company of Washington, D.C. designed the original courthouse, and J.A. Jones of Charlotte built it.

Commissioners also planned to build a new county administration building on the lot.

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