On December 3rd the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners voted to approve a plan for Phase II of the lake bed project. The engineering firm, Fleming & Associates, has been presenting revised site plans to this board for a year, at a cost of $50,000.
Monday night the board was told federal regulations have changed since August, when they last discussed the project, and now require municipalities to be fully ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. The board voted to approve the plan with two changes: adding an additional ramp for wheelchair access and adding stairs with handrails to the swim area.
The board initially voted to approve a site plan in July of 2017. Several weeks later they agreed to a $36,000 contract with Fleming & Associates who would draw the site plan. It’s not clear why this board chose to reject the previous plan or spend an additional $14,000 on site plan revisions. But this newly approved site plan already has an issue. Board members were told Fleming & Associates took issue with some undisclosed aspect and they’re being asked to meet at the lake last week so they could personally see the problem.
In November, when Commissioner Larson proposed converting the old golf course property into a walking trail, Commissioner Edwards cautioned the board to finish existing projects, like Phase II of the lake, before beginning new ones. Her warnings were ignored, and the board voted to move forward with Larson’s idea.
Anonymous sources have confirmed there’s no money earmarked to complete Phase II of the lake bed project, but the board has committed to funding the walking trail by April 2019. Early estimates indicate that project could cost the taxpayers as much as $150,000.
After the board moved swiftly to approve a walking trail on the golf course, several new issues came to light. Commissioner Mitchell eagerly agreed to pay as much as $50,000 for a turn lane on Golfview Road to accommodate visitors to the trail, but NCDOT has plans to widen the road to accommodate traffic coming from the I-295 exits. Any changes they make to Golfview Road will be removed to accommodate the additional lanes, which means any money spent on those changes will be wasted.
There’s also a growing safety concern. In mid-November a man was shot in Ed Herring park in the Eaglewood Community of Hope Mills…adjacent to the old golf course. The shooting occurred during daylight hours. I spoke to Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo who said HMPD was aware of a growing concern in the neighborhood. He also indicated the crime rates in that park were insignificant compared to the rates in Municipal Park.
The board voted to add benches and trash cans to the walking trail on the golf course, but not lights. Signs will be posted informing visitors the park is open from sunrise to sunset. But Municipal park is also open sunrise to sunset. It hasn’t prevented people from entering the park after hours or from committing crimes in the park.
Only a small portion of the new walking trail will be visible during daylight hours, and none of it, or the parking lot, will be visible after sunset. And while Municipal park is in the heart of Hope Mills, surrounded by residential and commercial areas, the golf course is bordered by acres of trees and shrubs. The wooded areas, especially near the creek, have been used by the vagrant community for years. And several years ago, an arsonist was using the wooded area around the golf course to move around unseen after starting fires on the golf course. Our Commissioners are actively working to create the very situation women and girls are warned to avoid.
It’s also worth noting that town manager Melissa Adams advised the board she’d been in contact with the McAdams Group and a representative is coming to Hope Mills on December 10 to discuss the proposed walking trail.
The board has commissioned McAdams Group to conduct an $87,000 survey of Hope Mills assets. The study began with a survey of Hope Mills residents to determine what recreational amenities they want the town to develop. A walking trail was not a priority for the residents and it may have conflicted with what the experts were planning to suggest for that land.
Commissioner Larson altered the results of the study when she insisted McAdams Group include a 20-year-old PWC water survey indicating lake bed #2 was necessary for a future water reservoir. PWC has denounced that survey and declared it’s outdated. Now, the board is altering the results again by dictating to the experts what they’re planning to develop on that land.
Why spend money on an expert survey if you’re going to alter the validity with outdated documents and develop the land in ways which preclude developing what the citizens want?
It’s clear this board is struggling to find their footing. They’re wasting valuable time on highly anticipated projects while rushing ill-conceived projects. And they’ve proven to be horrible stewards of our tax money. Ironically, during the December meeting this board also voted not to allow recall elections. So, while we’re aware of their incompetency’s, we have no recourse.