Hope Mills News

COVID-19 delays local road projects

11 IMG 3123The lack of traffic on North Carolina’s highways caused by shelter-in-place orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the North Carolina Department of Transportation to delay numerous road projects statewide. A number of them are in the Hope Mills area.

Earlier this month, NCDOT released a list 20 pages long of road projects across North Carolina that have been put on hold as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not safety issues preventing the workers from completing projects. The money normally available to pay for the work has evaporated.

Many state road projects are funded through the Motor Fuels Tax, Highway Use Tax and fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

With driving dramatically curtailed because so many people are staying at home, there is currently a budget shortfall of $300 million for NCDOT for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Projects that were already underway or that have already been awarded won’t be affected.

In addition to a release from the NCDOT, Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner was briefed on the delays during a recent conference call involving Cumberland County’s mayors along with representatives of the county Board of Commissioners and representatives of the city of Fayetteville.

“So much is happening with the highways in Cumberland County,’’ Warner said. “Everyone is concerned. They are moving quickly to get the outer loop finished.”

 Warner said her biggest concerns for delays in Hope Mills road construction are at the intersection of Camden Road and Main Street as well as the intersection of Golfview and Rockfish Roads near the proposed new public safety building in Hope Mills.

The intersection at Camden and Main is one of the busiest in Hope Mills.

“That is one of our high-traffic areas,’’ Warner said, noting that a fatal accident recently took place near there. “A lot of development takes
place on that side of town,’’ she said. “That would be the Camden Road section that goes by Millstone Theater.’’

The other big area of concern is where the construction of the new public safety building for the Hope Mills police and fire departments, around Rockfish and Golfview Roads, is hopefully scheduled to begin work sometime this year.

It is already a high traffic area, and the pending construction of the new public safety building is only going to make the problem even worse.

The police department has temporarily relocated to the old Ace Hardware store on South Main Street, while the Hope Mills Fire Department
will continue to operate out of its building on Rockfish Road.

It’s not hard to see how road construction along Rockfish and Golfview Roads at the same time work is taking place on the public safety building could create a serious logjam.

“If that (roadwork) project is delayed and we continue to do work on the public safety building, I see a lot of problems with that,’’ Warner said.

She is hopeful that a town committee that has been working for some time on the Hope Mills Gateway Plan will be able to head off any major headaches the combination of the road construction and the building of the public safety building will cause.

The Gateway Plan group includes various officials and citizens of the town of Hope Mills along with representatives of the Fayetteville Economic Development Commission, Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“We’ve had very good strategic planning sessions,’’ Warner said. “We’ve been ahead of what’s going on with Interstate 295 and how it will impact Hope Mills.

“Now we can just add to that concern and talk about what we do now if there is a delay. We have to have an immediate plan. This will give us opportunities to look at what we’re doing with a lot of input. It might mean we need to step back and do a better job.’’

 Following is a complete list of all the major Cumberland County road projects that have been delayed by the NCDOT funding shortfall:

 1. Bridge 60 over Lower Little River on U.S. 401.

2. Bridge 25 on N.C. 242 over Beaver Dam Creek.

3. 1-95 install broadband fiber from South Carolina state line to Virginia state line.

4. I-95 in Cumberland and Robeson Counties from U.S. 301 (Exit 22) to North of I-95 Business/U.S. 301 (Exit 40). Widen to eight

5. Fayetteville outer loop from South of State Road 1003 (Camden Road) to South of State Road 1104 (Strickland Bridge Road.)

6. Fayetteville outer loops from South of State Road 1104 (Strickland Bridge Road) to South of U.S. 401.

7. U.S. 401 (Raeford Road) from U.S. 401 (Raeford Road) from Old Raeford Road to East of Bunce Road.

8. Cumberland, Hoke. State Road 1102 (Gillis Hill Road) from North of State Road 1112 (Stoney Point Road) to U.S. 401 (Raeford
        Road). Widen to multi-lanes and replace Bridge 250075 over Little Rockfish Creek.

Marley says COVID-19 huge challenge for first responders

10 IMG 7411In his role as emergency management director and fire marshal for Hoke County, Bryan Marley spends his typical work days in front of a computer dealing with planning and coordinating emergency-related matters.

But as a career firefighter who has worked in close proximity with fellow fireman and other first responders, the member of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners appreciates the challenges his peers in the field are facing now as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic while serving in frontline roles.

“You don’t know what’s happening day to day,’’ he said. “Stuff changes. Numbers fluctuate. You get executive orders handed down.’’

The biggest problem for rescue workers in the field is the nationwide shortage of what’s called PPE, personal protective equipment.

“Nobody can get their hands on masks, gloves and gowns,’’ Marley said. “You call your suppliers and they don’t have it and don’t know when they will be able to get it. Everybody is sold out of everything. It’s a crazy time.’’

With protective gear in short supply, Marley said first responders have been forced to reuse what used to be disposable items, learning how to disinfect masks and gloves so they can be worn in multiple situations. 

In some cases, first responders may resort to unusual alternatives, like punching armholes in large garbage bags and using them as gowns, or wearing coffee filters as breathing masks.

While this may not be perfect, Marley compared it to the difference between eating a steak sandwich versus a bologna sandwich.

“When you’re hungry, a bologna sandwich is like a steak sandwich,’’ he said.

Concerns over COVID-19 have changed the way fire departments are handling emergency calls these days. There was a time when a fire truck routinely accompanied paramedic rescue vehicles on calls. Because of the virus, calls are handled differently now and fire trucks often don’t respond.

When someone calls 911, Marley said, the dispatcher asks a series of questions. If the caller replies yes to them, they meet the protocol for a COVID-19 response and the fire truck won’t be dispatched on the call. 

Marley said this is to prevent the amount of people exposed to someone who may be infected with COVID-19. The dispatcher will also warn the paramedics going out on the call that they need to take all necessary precautions for working with someone who may be carrying COVID-19.

But as big a challenge as dealing with the virus directly is, Marley said that’s only part of he problem for first responders. “You listen to this stuff all day long, then you go home and everything is closed down,’’ Marley said. “You can’t go anywhere or do anything. 

“Everything you used to do to relieve your stress levels when you get off, you can’t do. You’re cooped up at the house.’’

There’s also the anguish of loading a COVID-19 patient onto the ambulance and watching them say goodbye to their family, who can’t even go to the hospital to be with them and could be saying goodbye to that person for the last time.

“Stuff like that weighs on you after awhile,’’ Marley said.

Marley’s advice to everyone is to follow the orders of Gov. Roy Cooper and stay home as much as possible. “Limit where you go and what you do, and we’ll get through this thing a whole lot quicker,’’ he said.

“Listen to what the experts say.’’

SonRise ministry offers Adopt-A-Granny for shut-ins

11 sonriseThe SonRise evangelistic outreach ministry based in Hope Mills has had a simple philosophy since it went into operation six years ago.

Scotty Sweatt, one of the founders of SonRise, said the purpose of the organization is to meet people where they are and show them who Jesus Christ is.

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, SonRise has added another role to its outreach purpose, one that’s more hands-on than just sharing the message of the Gospel.

They recently instituted a program called Adopt-A-Granny. In a nutshell, it’s aimed primarily at senior citizens who are wary of getting out and shopping for themselves because of risk to exposure to infection by the COVID-19 virus.

To help that group, SonRise will go and do the grocery shopping for at-risk people who would prefer to remain home bound then deliver the purchases to their door in a safe manner, observing proper social distancing restrictions.

While the SonRise operation is based in Hope Mills, it has no physical location by design. The headquarters for SonRise is a converted school bus that includes a chapel and a kitchen inside. On the outside, the bus is decorated with the words “The Church has Left the Building” on front and back.

Membership of SonRise includes people who represent a variety of denominations. Sweatt was a youth minister for nine years at a small country church.

The concern for the elderly started weeks ago when Sweatt began to realize some of his elderly neighbors didn’t have family available to check on them. His wife also began checking on people in need. That led Sweatt to get the entire SonRise team involved.

Currently, the SonRise team tries to reach out to anyone in the general Cumberland County area, but they are limited by whether or not someone involved in the ministry actually lives where people who reach out to them are located.

Sweatt said he recently got a call from a woman in Spring Lake. They weren’t able to send someone directly to help with shopping, but Sweatt said the woman was actually just glad to talk to someone who would listen to her and offer words of comfort.

While SonRise isn’t actively seeking donations, Sweatt said anyone who would like to contribute to the ministry to help with the Adopt-A-Granny outreach is welcome to do so.

In order to arrange a delivery, the number to call is 910-960-7786.

The process is fairly simple, Sweatt said. The caller provides SonRise with a list of the items that they would like to have purchased. SonRise then sends someone to buy the needed food and deliver it to the home. The food is wiped down with disinfectant and the person who delivers it wears a mask and drops it off outdoors, standing a safe distance away to confirm delivery was made and to speak briefly with the person who the food was delivered to.

While the emphasis of Adopt-A-Granny is on senior citizens, Sweatt said the SonRise team is happy to talk with anyone regardless of age who is homebound or at risk and would rather not venture out during the pandemic.

“We are not going to rule out anybody,’’ Sweatt said. “We’ll give them a smiling face if nothing else.’’

Hope Mills pedestrian bridge passes inspection

09 IMG 1441The town of Hope Mills got a piece of good news recently when it was announced the pedestrian bridge at Hope Mills Dam passed a first-ever safety inspection with flying colors.

Don Sisko, head of the Hope Mills Public Works department, said the pedestrian bridge, which is a little more than 10 years old, had never been inspected as far as he knows. Sisko added the bridge is actually not subject to any statutory requirement that it be inspected.

“We did it as a prudent measure to help ensure resident safety and make sure it is a sound structure,’’ Sisko said.The town hired the engineering firm of Vaughn and Melton out of New Bern to handle the inspection, which was conducted on April 8.

Sisko said Vaughn and Melton is a firm used by the Department of Transportation toconduct roadway bridge inspections around the state.

The Hope Mills pedestrian bridge is what’s known as a truss bridge and spans 126 feet, 3.5 inches across the creek bed below the dam.

Sisko said national bridge inspection criteria includes a variety of things like superstructure, substructure, the deck, the channel, waterway adequacy, approaches and alignments. 

The bridge is largely used by people who are visiting the Hope Mills Lake Park, Sisko said, and there’s no measure available of the number of people who walk across it during the course of a year. The bridge is meant to be used only by pedestrians, not by anyone on a wheeled vehicle like a bicycle.

The lifespan of the bridge is largely dictated by the weather and the maintenance that is performed on it, like fixing a broken weld on one of the trusses that help provide the bridge’s support.

Sisko said the engineering firm put a ladder in the creek bed below the bridge to examine it from underneath. 

All of the various aspects of the bridge Sisko listed earlier were examined by the inspectors and given a number grade from zero to nine. A nine is usually reserved for a new bridge in excellent condition. 

Sisko said the Hope Mills bridge got grades of seven and eight across the board.

Looking ahead, Sisko said the town will schedule inspections of the bridge biannually, meaning the next one will occur in 2022.

“It will help us keep on top of things,’’ Sisko said.

ALMS HOUSE in need of KAP donations

12 IMG 2087Restaurants aren’t the only food-related enterprises who’ve had to change the way they operate because of COVID-19.

The ALMS HOUSE ministry in Hope Mills has had to alter how it helps the underprivileged in the area and is in need of extra support during this difficult time.

Delores Schiebe, executive director of the ALMS HOUSE, said people are still coming in to get food, but new restrictions have been put in place to safeguard both the staff and the clients.

The only part of the ALMS HOUSE that is completely shut down is the organization’s clothes closet.

Another major change involves access to the ALMS HOUSE’s popular food pantry.

Clients can no longer just show up to browse the shelves. The food pantry is only open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., and all those planning to visit must call ahead for an appointment.

They will need to bring their Social Security card and proof of residence, preferably a current utility bill that includes their physical address.

The ALMS HOUSE can still only be accessed by people who live in the general area of Hope Mills. Schiebe said that basically covers what she described as a big circle around the town, except for a few odd twists and turns. Generally, it includes the area as far out as Raeford Road and almost all the way to the Robeson County line.

People who aren’t sure if they live in Hope Mills area can call Schiebe at the same number to make appointments to visit the food pantry, 910-425-0902, to confirm if they meet the residency requirements.

From noon until 12:30 p.m. and from 5 until 5:30 p.m., the ALMS HOUSE is still serving meals to anyone in need, but they are now strictly takeout.

Schiebe said the ALMS HOUSE has been helped greatly by local businesses that have donated meals for them to distribute. Among them are Fayetteville Realtors, The Diner by Chef Glenn, Sammio’s on Raeford Road, Superior Bakery, Marci’s Cakes and Bakes, Robin’s on Main and Big T’s.

Grandson’s Buffet also donated meals until the restaurant had to shut down because of the additional restrictions imposed by the governor’s executive order, but Schiebe said she hopes they will be able to resume in the near future.

One critical part of the ALMS HOUSE outreach, the Kids Assistance Program, is in danger of having to shut down due to a lack of items. The KAP was designed to provide school-age children with a source of food they could prepare on their own in their homes to make sure they had something to eat over the weekend.

Even though school is currently closed, Schiebe said school social workers are still coming to the ALMS HOUSE and picking up prepared bags of food to deliver to children in the areas where their schools are located.

But Schiebe said supplies of the kind of food used in the bags have been wiped out at local grocery stores. She especially mentioned things like ramen noodle soup and Chef Boyardee products in microwaveable containers.

ALMS HOUSE will accept those donations during regular hours, she said, with no need to make an appointment to drop them off. “We are eager to get it,’’ she said, “especially our need for items for the kids program.’’

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