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County Hears Remarks On Beaver Control And Compositions Of Boards

by Blake Proctor

With Commissioners Dr. Ophelia Munn-Goins and Michael Cogdell in attendance telephonically, Chairman Charles Ray Peterson gaveled the meeting to order at 6:28pm to a relative full house of Covid19-required socially-distanced attendees.

The Reverend Tommy Puryear from Tar Heel Baptist Church provided the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was led by County Manager Greg Martin. The twelve-item Consent Agenda was unanimously approved without objection.

Chairman Peterson opened a public hearing to receive comments from the public regarding the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget process. There were no comments forthcoming and the Chairman closed the public hearing.

A private county citizen addressed the board with twin concerns, first, the sheer number of Board of Education members, declaring that there were entirely too many members for a county the size of Bladen; to back up his argument, he provided comparative BoE membership numbers for several various-sized counties in the state.

Closer to home, his second bother was that there were nine members on the Bladen County Commission, but he was able to vote on only three, or 33% of the Board – his District Commissioner and the two at-large Seats; the same, of course, was true for all other voters in the County. He opined that all seats should be at-large.

The next portion of the meeting, “Matters of Interest to Commissioners” comprised a meeting itself within the meeting:

Commissioner Cameron McGill informed the Board that he has had many complaints relating to flood prone areas and the numerous beaver dams causing water to back up; how could they be gotten rid of? The Chairman told Mr. McGill that the County has funded one part-time person to trap beavers throughout the county.

The return to beaver bounties was again broached, without further Board comment. The Chairman requested that Mr. Martin get a report for next month from County Beaver Control, headed by Dean Morris, Director of the Soil & Water Conservation District.

Commissioner Munn-Goins made the observation that the Health Department’s parking lot was in need of resurfacing; the Chairman reminded her that this project is in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to be repaved in current year.

In what may have been in a preemptive move, Chairman Peterson alerted the Board that the County hopes to have an engineering report on the Kelly Dike project by the end of February.

Rusty Worley, Maintenance Director for the Bladen School Board came forward to request approval of the $45,311 October 1st through December 31st, 2020 Capital Improvement expenditures. He had barely reached the dais when there was a motion, a second and a unanimous vote to approve those expenditures.

Emergency Services Director Nathan Dowless came forward to inform the Board that a ceremony was held on February 10th to honor members of the EMS, Sheriff’s Department, several volunteer firefighters, and others, in the preservation of lives due to separate cardiac arrests on October 24th and 29th.

The ceremony, and those persons and departments recognized for their work have been reported earlier on Bladen Online; for the names and affiliations of those recipients, please view that article.

Vickie Smith, Director of Social Services provided the Board with a review of the 2020-2021 Local Community Child Protection Team activities for the period. She then reviewed with the Board the results of the recent Adult Medicaid Audit.

Health Department Director Dr. Terri Duncan introduced RN Jordan Hunsinger, who provided an update of the County’s Communicable Disease Program. Dr. Duncan then requested the Board’s approval of a “sliding scale fee” for charging patients on a ability-to-pay basis. The Board unanimously approved this fee schedule.

She then turned to the biweekly Xi Jinpingfluenza Report as of February 15th:

STATE 824,352 10,501 1.27%
BLADEN 2,826 38 1.34%

The Board then turned to Advisory Board Appointments, an exercise that has sometimes turned contentious lately:

The task of replacing Richard Bryan of the Airport Appeals Board, who passed away in January, was tabled in order to find a replacement.

There is an opening on the Division on Aging Advisory Board due to the resignation of Ms. Sondra Guyton representing Bladen Community College. There are currently no candidates for this opening and it was tabled in an attempt to find a Latino/Latina candidate who could expand diversity on that board and would be willing to serve.

The contention arrived with the vote on the three candidates for re-appointment to the Lisbon Fire Protection District Committee. While all three names for consideration are long-term members, member J.B. Priest passed away in January. The Priest family requested that son Jamie Priest be appointed to his father’s post.

However. in a letter of February 1st, LVFD Chief Kenneth Clark informed the Commission that their board requested the appointment of George Harrelson to replace Mr. Priest. Chairman Peterson reminded the Board that, without objection, it is customary for the County to appoint the choice of the deceased’s family.

On a motion by Commissioner Ray Britt and a second by Chairman Peterson to appoint Jamie Priest to the opening, the motion failed on a 2-7 vote, with only Mssrs. Peterson and Britt voting aye.

A substitute motion to appoint George Harrelson to fill the empty post of J.B. Priest ad to reappoint Mssrs. Israel Cromartie and John Carter Jr. The motion passed on a 7-2 vote, with Mssrs. Peterson and Britt voting nay.

County Manager Martin reviewed with the Commission, the activity calendar for the rest of February and the month of March. He requested direction from the Board regarding a remote meeting policy, and was reminded that such a policy was in effect two years ago.He replied that this policy would be following the current pandemic.

Finally, Mr. Martin requested Board direction regarding charitable donations. Following substantial discussion, Chairman Peterson named himself, Mr. Martin, and Commissioners Mark Gillespie, McGill, and Cogdell, to an ad hoc committee to formalize that policy; they will meet Monday the 23rd for this.

The Chairman asked for and received a motion and a second to adjourn at 7:50pm.

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