HOFFMAN — Officials have persisted for more than 11 years to bring a sewer system to Hoffman. But that doesn’t mean when they finally got to celebrate their victory over red tape and elusive financing, everything went smoothly.
First, workers set a neighboring lawn on fire when they tried to hook up the sound system. So the ceremony went without. (The fire went out with the aid of a much-knotted garden hose.)
The speechifying went fine (if hearing most of it punctuated by the drone of passing trucks on U.S. 1 counts as “fine”).
And in the long-awaited ending to the official ceremony, the line of dignitaries had to scoop the first shovelful twice because some-body was a little overzealous. (At least they all were wearing hard hats.)
“I’m just so thankful that we have come to this point,” Mayor Tommy Hart said to begin the celebration, which took place under a white tent and on folding chairs set up in a trampled plot across from the town’s northernmost welcome sign. “It’s been a long road, but it’s good.”
Both Hart and other speakers credited Town Commissioner Daniel Kelly with the most doggedness in the pursuit of a sewer line, which will run from Moore County down to Hoffman, connecting those on the easternmost edge in the project’s first phase. It was Kelly who began making noise in 1993 0r ‘94 about the need for a sewer system — he couldn’t remember which.
“We got turned down so many times, and the more they said that, the more I was determined,” said Kelly, dapper for the day in a purple pin-striped suit and lavender fedora. “One reason is, I’d like to leave this place I little bit better than I found it.”
To hear Kelly tell it, Hoffman found engineers McGill Associates — which has been working with the town for 11 years — as a gift from God: A company representative happened to attend the same conference as a Hoffman official frustrated by the engineering consultant the town had been working with before McGill.
Thence formed a partnership that worked for 11 years to plan a system, find financing for it and contract for the digging and installation of Phase 1, which actually began a more than a week ago, just south of the Moore County line and Friday included four earth-moving machines.
“This isn’t the end,” promised principal engineer Mike Apke of McGill. “We’re looking at (finding financing for) Phase 2, which pushes the system further west.”
State Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, and Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, attended the groundbreaking, with Goodman saying he had tried and failed to finance the project through the legislature in 2011.
When state Sen. Tom McInnis rose to speak, he forecast that the new system would bring “opportunities this area has never had.”
“This area was a bustling, bustling place 50 years ago, a hundred years ago,” said McInnis, who will face a challenger from Moore County in the May Republican primary. “We’ve got the opportunity to bring people back,” both residents and businesses.
Several residents attended the ceremony, happy that the system was under way at last, even if they didn’t know whether they would be early beneficiaries.
“You really don’t know (whether your home is on the line) till they really start the digging,” said Carl Isaac, who lives just outside city limits. But, “it’s coming right by my house.”
Nevertheless, “I’m pleased with what’s going on. It’s been a long time coming.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]