County joins FAMPO with focus on Lobelia Road crashes

September 6, 2022: A two-vehicle accident on Highway 690 outside Vass claimed the life of a man. The crash happened in the area of Charging Charlie Way, just inside Fort Bragg Military Reservation. —

June 7, 2023: A head-on collision on Lobelia Road, near McGill Road, in Vass, took four lives and sent one person to a trauma center.

September 22, 2023: A mother and her 4-year-old child died in a head-on crash outside of Vass. The crash happened on Lobelia Road at the intersection with Morrison Bridge Road. —

The Lobelia Road/Highway 690 corridor has long been known as a treacherous stretch of road, and at the Nov. 21 meeting of the Moore County Commissioners, one speaker called the road in Vass “a disaster.” The discussion came about following the commissioners’ approval of an invitation to join the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO). Moore County’s primary concern is Highway 690.

Commissioners had asked County Planner Debra Ensminger to get some answers to several questions, so she contacted Zachary Bugg, who works for transportation engineering firm Kittelson and Associates and is working with FAMPO.

One question: “What will Moore County benefit from joining FAMPO?” Bugg answered, “As a FAMPO member, Moore County would be invited to collaborate on the group’s activities, which would include participation in the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) and the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). These committees are made up of staff from all member jurisdictions and work together to plan and program transportation projects and apply for funding.”

Bugg also said that FAMPO offers an alternative funding different from a Rural Planning Organization when it comes to North Carolina Department of Transportation’s statewide prioritization, access to several sources of locally-administered projects, and direct attributable funding. This could free up additional resources to fund transportation improvements within the county.

There was one thing revealed that prompted a bit of discussion: Bugg said that as part of Kittelson’s assessment, they have recommended exempting any member jurisdictions with a 2020 U.S. census population below 4,500 from paying FAMPO group dues. The only drawback there is that non-dues-paying jurisdictions would not have a vote in decisions. They would, however, participate in TCC and TAC activities, as well as planning activities, comment on long-range planning deliverables, and collaborate with other member jurisdictions.

When asked whether Lobelia Road/Highway 690 in the Vass area would be a priority, considering the lives lost there, the answer obtained by the county planner was that Highway 690 and other projects within the MPO would retain its priority status when ranked against other projects, and it appears that this would be competitive with other projects in the region.

Nonetheless, the advantages to joining FAMPO seem to outnumber the disadvantages, so it was moved that Moore County Join FAMPO. The motion carried unanimously.

In other meeting matters:

~Commissioners discussed finding a productive way for county residents to express their input on an updated land-use plan, with Green Heron Planning Consultant Ben Hitchings recommendations on the meetings. The county aims to publicize these meetings in January.

~After discussion, the Board adopted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a part of the Sandhills Metropolitan Planning Organization. A Declaration of Dissent against this voting structure is stated in the MOU, which is also signed by the towns of Whispering Pines, Foxfire Village, Taylortown and Pinebluff.

~Commissioners approved a resolution officially making a decision to stand with Israel, condemn Hamas for its violence directed against the Israeli people, and express solidarity with the United States in its ongoing support of Israel.

~During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bill and Jeanne Hammond, of Pinehurst, voiced their frustrations with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services, particularly their concern and disappointment with the shelter’s euthanasia policy after tracking a stray dog and taking it to the shelter. There, they were informed that the dog (which they had expressed interest in keeping or helping to find a rescue home) would be on a 72-hour “stray hold.” Several days later, after the Veterans Day holiday, they were informed that the dog had been euthanized. Subsequently, another dog was also euthanized. They suggested more volunteers and more accountability for tracking dogs in the shelter.

Feature photo: A fatal collision on Lobelia Road in Vass on June 7, 2023, left forty yards of road debris/Sandhills Sentinel/Stephanie M. Sellers.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Steve Biddle.

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