Hoffman shot down for grant to complete second phase of sewer system

By: By Christine S. Carroll - Staff Writer

HOFFMAN — Once again, Hoffman officials face taking a second shot at what they need — this time, $2 million to continue building their nascent sewage system.

Four years ago, the town won a $3 million Community Development Block Grant for Phase 1 of the project: laying 9,600 feet of pipe and building two lift stations. This year, when they asked for Phase 2 financing, grant administrators said “no” but urged the town to try again in the fall.

“We’re going to have to keep trying, keep trying, keep trying,” Town Commissioner Daniel Kelly said Wednesday. “The more money we get, the sooner the project will be over.”

It took 11 years of planning and begging to bring Phase 1 to fruition, but Kelly is sanguine. He thinks the town may just need a stronger letter from the county health department, telling grantors the new sewer system will replace a plethora of aging and potentially dangerous septic tanks.

Hoffman pays for water from Richmond County but found it would be too costly to seek sewer service, too. The Moore County line lies a few scant miles away and is especially close to the town’s easternmost residents, so will be providing sewer service.

CDBGs come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to finance affordable housing, antipoverty programs and infrastructure development. Because many Hoffman residents earn low to middle incomes, they will not have to pay to have their septic tanks capped or to connect their homes to the sewer system.

Commissioners also have received a follow-up report from Bruce Naegelen of the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center, a division of the N.C. Department of Commerce. Naegelen visited the town in February to speak to officials and other residents about Hoffman’s strengths and weaknesses, and what it wanted to become within the foreseeable future.

At the end of that two-day visit, Naegelen made four recommendations the town could pursue within the next year:

• Updating its planning process and zoning ordinances, encompassing not only the town itself but areas close by.

• Conducting a community “visioning” forum to determine what community members think Hoffman should be in 15 years.

• Finding ways to coordinate growth with Camp Mackall, an nearby Army training facility that already uses Hoffman’s community center for classes.

• Developing proposals that would help the town profit from the burgeoning horse-related enterprises situated nearby.

He reiterated those suggestions during the Town Commission meeting Monday night, also repeating his suggestions on how to use the former Hoffman school, which the town now employs as a community center:

• Relocate the tiny Town Hall to the community center.

• Use some of the former classrooms as a “business incubator,” providing space for fledgling businesses.

• Rent space for an accredited day care center, something Hoffman sorely needs.

• Work to increase military use of the center.

The town has begun to work with the Lumber River Council of Governments on codifying its regulations. “COG,” as it commonly is called, is a regional planning agency set up by the state to aid 36 governmental bodies in Richmond, Bladen, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties.

Commissioners put off adopting the report until their May meeting, so members would have time to read the 36-page report and Naegelen, to make corrections.



By Christine S. Carroll

Staff Writer

Too rich?

Census reports suggest that the median family income in Hoffman hovers just below $50,000 — but town commissioners don’t believe it.

When Commerce Department representative Bruce Naegelen used that figure in making his recommendations Monday night, Commissioner Daniel Kelly joined several at the meeting in saying the figure was wrong and had cost the town money from grantors catering to low-income areas.

“Somebody’s making a lot of money!” cracked resident Spencer Willard, intimating that a few people with high incomes had skewed the average. Willard is one of four owners of Longleaf Lodge, a local bed and breakfast that caters to “horses, hounds and humans.”

Kelly said that “20 years ago, the census did the same thing. We were way up there (in average income), so when we applied for grants, we didn’t get them because our income was ‘too high’” — higher, even, than figures for Hamlet, Ellerbe and Rockingham.

The town went to its congressman, Kelly said, to ask that the figures be revised. They were, but not until the next census, he said.

“A lot of people (with money) have retired and moved into the area,” Kelly conceded Tuesday, “but it’s not like the whole of Hoffman” is rich.

Whatever people make, Naegelen’s figures showed that people from Hoffman create about $21 million in demand for products but spend most of that — $17 million — more than five miles away from town, which Naegelen said showed that the right businesses could survive in the town.

Too fast?

Willard also sparked a discussion on what he called the “Rockingham Speedway” — but which officially is known as U.S. 1 — complaining that the fast traffic was a threat to both his customers and those who might be lured in the future.

He found the intersections of Little Road and Derby Road with U.S. 1 most irksome and suggested commissioners contact the N.C. Department of Transportation to request a drop in the speed limit. Commissioner Ricardo Anderson thought maybe a traffic light would be the answer.

Spokesman Andrew Barksdale said Tuesday that DOT would look at the stretch of road, which logged 8,500 vehicles per day in 2014 and 10,000 in 2016.

DOT could conduct a full study, which involves making new traffic counts and determining how fast people typically drive through the area. It will take a look, he said, at the number of crashes and fatalities, design of the road, and the potential need for lighting or beefed-up traffic enforcement.

Hoffman Mayor Tommy Hart said that “for right now,” DOT might not favor making changes along U.S. 1, but “once the community comes together, maybe we’ll see how it rolls from there.”

Reach Christine S. Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]

Reach Christine S. Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]