Growing Hoke County boosts plans for schools, infrastructure

RAEFORD — As one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Hoke County has been the site for quite a few major developments over the past year.

An area of focus for the Board of Commissioners has been the proper implementation of utility upgrades to the Rockfish community, specifically the sewer system in order to boost its appeal for economic development.

The board of commissioners pledged a little over $2.6 million for the project in which they predict will in turn be able to grow beyond those costs.

Other areas to receive major funding was $846,000 to the City of Raeford for park improvements from the state, $4 million for broadband internet expansion from the state.

One of the key policy changes in 2022 for Hoke County was the reduction in the property tax rate from $0.75 cents to $0.73 per $100 evaluation.

That potentially could have been one of the key reasons in why county voters decided to reelect the three incumbents – Allen Thomas, Jr., Harry Southerland, and Tony Hunt – to new terms to the Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners voted Thomas to continue as chairman and James Leach installed as vice chairman.

The Hoke County Board of Education, however, saw a sizable shake up in leadership as the three newly elected members – Angela Southerland, Catherine Blue and Ruben Castellon – formed a coalition and elected Southerland and Blue as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively.

A key development for Hoke County Schools was preliminary plans for the new Hoke High School building drafted, moving the county one step closer to raising the overall capacity of the school as well as improving nearly all facilities.

The current state of Hoke High School sees itself well above capacity and the need for upgrades was critical. The new sources of funding should also help to expedite the process towards completion. 

The latest Census Bureau estimates put Hoke County’s population over 53,000 in 2022, continuing steady growth in the Sandhills region. Expansions from federal projects around Fort Bragg, such as the new CORE Innovation Center at the Womack Army Medical Center, continues benefit the counties surrounding the massive base.

FBRI Executive Director Lt. Col. (Ret) Stephen DeLellis, PA-C, USA, said of the new center,

“As a former Special Operations Soldier and medical officer, I’ve dedicated my career to finding solutions to the problems that our warfighters and commanders of these units face. Having a physical location at the CORE Innovation Center will allow us to continue to support innovative medical research toward optimizing military human performance through partnering with like-minded organizations on and off of Fort Bragg.”

In downtown Raeford, new restaurants and shops are breathing new life into the city and even drawing visitors from other counties.

The local government entities in Hoke County will continue to be covered by the North State Journal into the new year.