Board of Commissioners to select new commissioner in March

Commissioners approve use of funding for DSS food and nutrition services assistance

The Hoke County Board of Commissioners met on Feb. 20.

RAEFORD -— The Hoke County Board of Commissioners met Monday, February 20, with an agenda consisting of tax, property, and social services funding issues.

The board began the meeting by discussing their intention to fill the vacant seat on the board following the passing of Commissioner Lonnie Baldwin in February. 

“The Democratic Party asked that people send them information if they wanted to be interested,” said Chairman Allen Thomas, Jr. “Of course, we are not in a position where we have to go by the list, but there are people who may not be familiar with us and people who want to be considered and so the Democratic Party was able to field those names of people who are interested in serving this term.”

According to the County Attorney, the deadline for filling the vacancy is March 31, and Commissioner Allen stated that it was his intention and plan to have a vote in March before that.

“It is the commitment of this board to vote on this matter,” Allen said. “We recognize the seriousness of filling this vacant seat. We will move forward on it, and I’m fully confident in this board’s ability to come together and select a commissioner to serve out the term of our dearly departed Commissioner Lonnie Baldwin.”

The board then approved two requests for releases from delinquent taxes.

The first was a congregate of seven releases, totaling $1,600.33, and the second was a request by Total Victory Deliverance Church to be released from $1,007.47 in delinquent taxes on property that had not been initially exempted when the property was given tax-exempt status in 1987.

The board also approved a schedule for the Board of Equalization and Review for 2023.

“I would like to propose that the advertisements for the meeting be March 8, March 15, and March 22,” said Tax Assessor Mandi Davis. “The first meeting would be held April 3 at 5:30 p.m. in which the board members would be sworn in and the chairman elected, and then we’d have hearings. The second meeting would be April 17 at 5:30 and then the third meeting on May 1 at 5:30.”

Following the 10-day upset period, the board also officially approved the sale of surplus land.

“We have a bid for property off Hamilton Drive which is off Aberdeen Road near Lake Elizabeth Road,” said Clerk to the Board Gwen McGougan. “It was declared surplus back in 2019, and the bid on it is $4,300. The 10-day upset period expired February 8.”

The board then approved a Community Services Block Grant Program application request from Southeastern Community Action Partnership for $1,355,452.

“We are a self-sufficiency program for the Southeastern Community Action Partnership, which is a community action program,” said CSBG Program Director Kathleen Lowe Jacobs. “We are located in seven counties throughout North Carolina, and Hoke County is one of them.”

According to their website, SCAP studies the underlying issues involved in improving education, economic opportunities, living environments, and the general welfare of the community to make recommendations for programs, projects, or activities and create solutions for individuals who reside in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Pender, Robeson, and Scotland Counties.

The board was then presented with an update on the Department of Social Services’ food and nutrition services programs.

“When the pandemic hit, the state issued emergency supplement funds for people who were receiving food and nutrition services,” said DSS Director Terry Stanton. “Those funds end next week. During the pandemic, someone could have possibly been receiving $25 in food and nutrition services, but with the supplement, it could have been advanced to $250. Now, with that ending, they’ll go back to the $25. So, it’s going to hurt a lot of people, and they’re going to be suffering.”

According to Stanton, the state gave funds to each county strictly for food and nutrition services improvements, of which Hoke County received $63,000. With that money, DSS plans to hire temporary workers to handle phone calls, walk-ins, complaints, questions, concerns, and filing.

“My concern is that the person is going to be time-limited,” said Commissioner Harry Southerland. “Even if we agree to $15 an hour, there’s a problem with getting workers when you know that job is going to end. I don’t have a problem with looking to put it in the budget and making it a permanent job. It’s hard to find good workers now, and if you’re going to get a good worker and tell them that the job is going to run out in six months, it’s not going to happen.”

However, since it’s state money that has to be used or earmarked by June, the board approved the use of the funds with the condition that the temporary workers pay will start at $15 an hour.

The Hoke County Board of Commissioners will next meet March 6.