Hope Mills News

Hope Mills braces for COVID-19 challenge

08 jackie warnerHope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said the town remains open for business for the most part, but like everyone else, she is adjusting to the safety restrictions put in place statewide and nationwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All official town commission and committee meetings have been canceled through April 6, including the next scheduled meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Essential personnel of the town remain on duty at Town Hall and the police, fire and pubic works departments, but with some limitations to prevent direct interaction with too many people.

Except for the front door, Town Hall is closed, and when people enter the building, they will interact with town staff from behind a glass enclosure.

The front office is open at the police department for people who have to go inside.

One of Warner’s biggest concerns during the pandemic is the large number of local restaurants that are closed to everything but takeout service to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She’s particularly concerned for restaurants that traditionally don’t do takeout service, adding she’s noted a serious decline in their business even though they are advertising that they’re open for takeout only.

“The lights are on but I see very few cars,’’ she said, referring to one such business. She noted some businesses are trying to stay viable by using social media to advertise they are open. The problem, she thinks, is many Hope Mills residents don’t have access to social media for whatever reason.

One local concern is that, initially, too many people were congregating at Hope Mills Lake when the shutdown for COVID-19 first began. Warner said there are still a lot of people going to the lake, and she is hopeful most of them are observing social distancing. The one popular business located on lake property, Big T’s, has barred customers from using the picnic tables beneath its shelter and is now allowing customers to come and order but not stay on the grounds.

Warner hopes the community will continue to support charitable causes locally that benefit the area’s disadvantaged, especially the elderly and school children, the latter having lost access to school lunches since all schools are closed for the foreseeable future.

She is especially concerned about ongoing donations to the ALMS HOUSE in Hope Mills, which supports a program that provides regular lunches for children in need of food.

“The people that make donations to them aren’t in church,’’ Warner said. “They are also missing the churches that collect at the church and take it to the ALMS HOUSE.’’
Warner also expressed concern for senior citizens who are in local retirement and assisted living facilities who are currently denied visitors because of the lockdown.
“You need to take stuff to the door and drop it off,’’ she said.

Warner said the biggest item on the town agenda moving forward is preparation of the budget for the new fiscal year. It would normally be presented to the community in early June.

Work is continuing on the budget, she said, with some members of town staff involved able to work from home. She said the town may need to figure a way it can present the budget to the community either by a live Facebook feed or by recording the meeting as usual and posting it online as soon as possible.

Warner said citizens can keep up with the most current info at the town website, www.townofhopemills.com, the Facebook page at Town of Hope Mills Administration or by calling Town Hall at 910-424-4555.

Yakalacky Outfitters NC to open

17 yackalackyStephanie Bentley likes the direction Hope Mills is heading in and wants to be a part of the good things going on in the community. That’s a big part of the reason she and her husband Josh are kicking off a new business, Yakalacky Outfitters NC.

“I have a great passion in making things happen,’’ Bentley said. “I’ve done it before in past businesses. I’m very resourceful and creative. This is going to be a fun thing for the community.’’

The business she is putting together will roll out over a period of weeks, starting first with a kayak rental business that will be based in a mobile format to take the kayaks down to Hope Mills Lake.

Her physical business address, which likely won’t be open until mid-April at the earliest, will be just around the corner from the lake, literally, at 5552 Trade Street in a former paint store.

The building she plans to occupy has been vacant for nearly two years. She’s in the process of cleaning the building inside and out. Once that’s done, she’ll be able to devote full time to installing kayak racks on the trailer she plans to bring her rental kayaks down to Hope Mills Lake.

She has set a tentative date of March 28th to have some travel writers and photographers visit the new business and take a tour of the lake. That event is on hold as the current COVID-19 situation may limit the ability of the writers to travel to Hope Mills until a later time.

But she does plan to crank up the kayak rentals soon, advertising and taking reservations on her company’s Facebook page.

She is working on pricing plans that will make the rental affordable for people who have no experience using kayaks and just want to try it out. She’s also going to have longer rental times for veteran kayakers at a higher price.

“It’s definitely going to be affordable,’’ Bentley said. “I want everybody to be able to afford it.’’

She is hoping to make the Trade Street building more than just a typical store. She wants it to become a place where people can visit, shop and enjoy some time relaxing and socializing.

“We’ll sell bait, fishing tackle and sundries,’’ she said. “We’ll probably have apparel down the road.’’

To save money, and prevent the need to keep the building constantly stocked with kayaks she’s purchased to sell, Bentley plans to work out contracts with different distributors of various water sports products and have them come in on a rotating basis to do demonstrations of their products.

She’s currently negotiating with a company in Texas that makes a unique paddle board with pontoons.

Bentley also plans to offer loaner rods and reels for fishermen and eventually hopes to be able to sell fishing licenses at the store.

She hopes to do some landscaping in the store’s back yard and turn it into a place where people can come and relax in the shade during the summer months, possibly even constructing a small pond with koi or goldfish.

Her primary goal is to offer items that people will want and need when they visit Hope Mills Lake, either as fishermen or kayakers.

While she’s starting with kayaks, eventually she hopes to offer different types of water craft, including canoes, rowboats and possibly even pedal boats.
“The pedal boats are very expensive,’’ she said. “When we get that ball rolling the town is going to let us keep them on the water.’’

Eventually, Bentley hopes to have some kind of storage facility at the lake so she can keep the kayaks there as well and not have to move them back and forth.
She also plans to offer kayak owners the chance to bring their kayaks to her and let her sell them at the store.

She’d also like to sell items made by local artists and craftsmen. “I want to give them an outlet inside the store,’’ she said, “help them and help me.’’

Warner excited with information gathered at New Bern meeting

15 01 trade streetAs mayor of Hope Mills, Jackie Warner is always looking for opportunities to spark economic development and downtown revitalization. That’s why she and town finance director Drew Holland recently attended the 40th annual North Carolina Main Street Conference in New Bern.

The conference was geared toward communities roughly the same size as Hope Mills and looked at creative ways various towns had used to promote interest on the part of visitors that didn’t involve huge expenditures of money.

15 02 slideWarner and Holland split up during their time at the conference so each could come back with different ideas on revitalization.

With the news that the historic Trade Street property in Hope Mills has been put up for sale, Warner was particularly interested in things that the town can do to preserve the history there and possibly renovate some of the buildings along the street.

“We had already brought in somebody that explained you can get tax credits for historical preservation and renovating the building,’’ Warner said of a recent presentation that was put on by the town.

One of the most interesting presentations Warner attended involved something Hope Mills has already started doing, the addition of art to the downtown

Ironically, before the presentation started, Warner saw pictures displayed from a town art display in nearby Laurinburg that was the inspiration for Hope Mills’ initial foray into municipal art.

Warner’s son, Teddy, worked with the town of Laurinburg when it started the idea of buying a lot, clearing it and setting up sculptures. “They were featured in one talk about how that helped economic development,’’ Warner said of the Laurinburg project.

Hope Mills established an agreement with Adam Walls, who lives in Hope Mills and is an art instructor at UNC-Pembroke, to have his art students provide the town with sculptures.

Warner noted that the presentation highlighted the success of art in other small North Carolina towns.

She mentioned the whirligig park in downtown Wilson, which features a variety of tall, colorful wind-driven sculptures.

Lexington, which is famous for its barbecue, features an assortment of pink pig statues.

The nearby town of Sanford has become famous for local murals that tell the story of the town.

“We could use those murals to show what Trade Street was like years ago,’’ Warner said.

Warner would especially like to do something to bring back the memories of the days when there was a train depot in Hope Mills and trains made regular stops in the town, instead of whizzing through over the downtown bridge as they do today.

Her desire is to get some kind of grant assistance to create a mural on Trade Street near where the old depot once stood. “We’ve got pictures tied to the railroad when it ran through town behind the old mill,’’ she said.

There are many other things Warner saw that could bring back an old-time feel to Hope Mills while at the same time bringing the town into the 21st century.

One thing she saw at the gathering were solar-powered street lights that have a retro look from the 1900s. “Solar lights are very cost effective, and you don’t know it’s a solar light,’’ Warner said.

She also saw some things in a tour of two New Bern churches that could be used at the Thomas Campbell Oakman Memorial Chapel downtown.

“They have times of the day when they are open for prayer,’’ Warner said. “I looked at a garden they had done beside one of them. “They also had a hidden restroom facility that we could easily do by our church. It was cost-effective and served a good purpose.’’

She looked at pavers, bricks and different types of sidewalks. There were also park benches and playgrounds.

Warner hopes to visit Sanford to take a look at the murals there. She would also like for the Hope Mills Creative Arts Council to visit Washington, N.C., a small North Carolina town that has raised significant money for the arts through various partnerships. “Because we’re a tier one county, there is money available if we go the right route to apply for it, to do some of the things we may want to do,’’ she said.

Hope Mills responds to COVID-19 crisis

16 town hallIn response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the town of Hope Mills took swift action to limit the exposure of its citizens to possible infection with the virus.
At the top of the list of actions was the declaration of a state of emergency by Mayor Jackie Warner that took effect on Monday, March 16.

The action gave the Hope Mills Police Department authority to deny access to any areas in the town that may be necessary to keep the spread of the virus under control.
Anyone attempting to gain access to any area that is blocked by the police would be considered guilty of a misdemeanor.

The town also announced cancellation of all appointed boards, commissions, committees and upcoming special events through Monday, April 6.

Specific events are listed below:

All town facility rentals from March 16-April 6 are canceled. No additional reservations will be scheduled during that time period.

Easter in Hope Mills and Breakfast with the Eastern Bunny on Saturday, April 4, and the free Easter Egg Hunt are canceled.

Ag Day on Saturday, April 4 is canceled.

Effective Monday, March 16, the Hope Mills Recreation Center closed for an indefinite period.

All scheduled Parks and Recreation programs, athletics, activities, trips and open gym times are suspended through April 6. Registration and payment for future programs and activities can be done online at https://secure.rec1.com/NC/hope-mills-N.C.

Hope Mills Municipal Park, Golfview Greenway and Hope Mills Park open spaces will remain accessible for public use.

Town Hall and the police department lobby will not be closed. Residents are asked to limit visits to both facilities. Use online forms where possible and mail checks for permits. Those who must come to Town Hall or the police station are asked to call ahead and make an appointment to make sure someone is available to assist you.
Call 910-424-4555 for Town Hall or 910-425-4103 for the police department.

Visit http://www.townofhopemills.com/directory.aspx  to find alist of direct extensions.

Speaking contest focuses on voting rights

17 DrDue to the spread of COVID-19, this event will be rescheduled for a future date.

Dr. Tremaine Canteen thinks 2020 is a significant year to celebrate the importance of voting rights in this country and is seeking to do it through an oratorical contest for high school students.

Canteen, in conjunction with the Hope Mills chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, originally planned to the contest on Feb. 29 at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Center. Because of a lack of participants, the event was postponed.

A new date has now been set for Saturday, April 25, still at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Center. The contest will begin at 1 p.m.

The contest was originally meant to coincide with Black History Month, but Canteen said the significance of the topic makes the date of the contest a bit more flexible, although she’s encouraging anyone interested to sign up as quickly as possible.

The contest is open to all high school students from grades 9-12. They do not have to be residents of Cumberland County.

The topic for the speeches is “Her Story: African-Americans and the vote.”

Canteen feels 2020 is an excellent year to hold a contest like this for several reasons.

“This is the centennial for the 19th amendment that deals with the right to vote regardless of sex,’’ she said.

She added it’s the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment, which deals with having the right to vote regardless of race.

She feels it’s important to hear from teen-age voices on the subject.

“I think this is a good year to celebrate change, but to bring awareness to where we are in society right now,’’ she said. “Who better to hear it from than children?”

Canteen feels teenagers have powerful things to say on the subject and bring a different perspective to the topic.

Each speech will be limited to three to five minutes, and the speakers will be timed during their presentations. The judges will be listening for creativity and content.

One reason Canteen is encouraging young people to sign up for the competition as quickly as possible is so members of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority can work with them prior to the competition to help them with basic speaking skills.

For details on how to sign up for the contest, contact Canteen at drtremainecanteen@gmail.com.

Trophies and three cash prizes will be awarded, $150 for first place, $75 for second an $50 for third.“I see this as a way to prepare kids for life,’’ Canteen said. “In any career you’re successful in, there is going to be an element of public speaking. This is a topic that’s never going to die.’’

Visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd21fkHXJ5JDb7LhomyfpmybaVp4LojZOmw8Wd0jDH284z4wA/viewform to apply online.

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