Engineers drained the town's lake last week after a sinkhole was discovered, just a year after the new dam was built.
Mayor Eddie Dees said Town Manager Randy Beeman, and representatives from Crowder Construction Co., which built the dam, and the engineering firms of McKim and Creed and MacTec presented a plan of action during the commissioners' meeting for reopening the road across the lake and keeping the area safe for residents.
Beeman said the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration – scheduled to be held at the lake – will be held in the municipal park instead.
"It's a disaster," said Barbra Martin, who's lived in Hope Mills since 1968. "The lake is our daily income for all the visitors to come."
In 2003, the old earthen dam gave way, giving Donna Gray, owner of Big T’s snack bar on the lake, six waterless summers. After delays and cost overruns, the new dam was finally ready in time for last summer.
The town was still paying off the $14 million cost of building and maintaining the newer dam when the latest leak was discovered.
“I just look at the lake and I cannot believe it,” Gray said. “I just cannot believe that a $14 million structure in 15 months is gone."
Without water in the lake, Gray has seen her business dry up.
"You know, this is like a big death in the family to the whole community,” Dees said. “And we're not going to waste any time. We're going to get started right away trying to find out what happened and how we're going to fix it."
Gray is cautiously optimistic that town leaders can resurrect the lake a second time.
“It's just a little bit harder this time to believe we've got to go through this again, but we're gonna make it," she said.