Commissioners shoot down potential Sheriff’s Office shooting range location

Two LPN contracts extended to assist with Health Department staffing

Members of the Hoke County Commission meet on Monday, Feb. 6. (File)

RAEFORD — The Hoke County Board of Commissioners met Monday, February 6, with another potential location for the Sheriff’s Office shooting range on the agenda for discussion.

The board started the meeting by holding a public hearing regarding an application by the Sheriff’s Office for a special use permit in order to construct a shooting range.

“The Planning Department has received a request for an application for a special use permit for a shooting range on 736 Ellis Road, which is a 22.18-acre parcel,” said Planner Jeffery Dockery. “It’s in a low-density area where we have single-family homes, and we also have the wastewater treatment facility. The Sheriff is asking to use a portion of this parcel as their shooting range.”

The Sheriff’s Office has been looking to build a shooting range within the county in order to allow them to conduct their firearm certifications for the department’s officers easier and with less hassle.

According to Sheriff Roderick Virgil, the range would only be for Raeford and Hoke County officers to use for qualification purposes, and the plan was to use dirt and debris to create berms around the lanes.

However, while most citizens expressed the understanding that the Sheriff’s Office’s need for a shooting range was legitimate and necessary, the location was seen as not ideal for most citizens due to the proximity to Sandy Grove Elementary and Middle Schools. In addition, the location was problematic due to the proximity to multiple homeowners, noise levels, and because of the uncertainty of hours that officers would be allowed to shoot.

“It’s clear to me that there’s more studying that has to be done,” said Commissioner Harry Southerland. “This board will not be ready to vote tonight to approve this. There’s a lot of work that has to be done. You all came with some very, very valid questions and very valid concerns. Among them are the concerns over safety, especially for the kids, which is my main concern. I’m not prepared to vote on this. I think we need to do more studies, and I think we might have to put together a committee so that we can come back and give you all the answers you need.”

Following the hearing, the board voted against the issuing of a special use permit for the site.

“I really don’t see any point in looking at this site any further,” said Commissioner Tony Hunt. “There’s been so many valid reasons brought up not to have it there. I don’t think even a consultant can make it work there. We just need to abandon this and move on and get the people in place that we need in place to decide in which direction we’re going to go with this.”

This is the second location to be voted against after a formerly approved location off of Steele Road was rescinded in September due to public outcry.

“Nobody sitting here, young or old, is against our law enforcement,” Southerland said. “We all 100% love our law enforcement. But we’ve got to put some money behind our law enforcement. An indoor range would solve all of our problems: safety issues and noise issues. And then, if the Sheriff wanted to invite other counties, he could. And charge them. But let us look at that in our study. We’ve got to put some money into this thing at a minimum of half a million and up to $4 million.”

The board then approved two additional Sheriff’s Office items, the first being the acceptance of a $23,000 grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission given to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office. The second item was a $47,319.96 increase in budget for Jail Health Services to increase staffing to 12 hours per day, seven days a week.

Finally, the board approved two Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) contracts for the Health Department.

“We’ve had these LPNs working with us over the course of the year,” said Health Director Helene Edwards. “They had been funded through the state with COVID dollars, but the COVID dollars are going to end on February 28, and they’ve been doing a great job doing our vaccines on Mondays and Fridays and additional testing, so we’d like to keep them through May 31. They’ve expressed interest in staying with us and helping us throughout that time.”

The Hoke County Board of Commissioners will next meet February 13.