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EMS jobs on hold, but budget approved

county commishHeat was in the air at the Bladen County Board of Commissioners’ Budget Workshop meeting Monday evening. The budget was approved, but important issues remain on hold until commissioners can agree.

First on the agenda was community funding for the new fiscal year. The total budgeted for community funding was $5,675 according to County Manager Greg Martin. Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson made a motion for the community funding to be funded the same as the year prior. The motion passed.

Next on the agenda was funding for an East Arcadia park and recreation plan, which started the rise in heated discussions between the commissioners. Commissioner G. Michael Cogdell asked why some of the Capital Outlay funding could not be used to help fund the new plan in East Arcadia.

Commissioner Peterson explained the Capital Outlay money Cogdell was referring to had already been budgeted for in the new year. Commissioner Wayne Edge added to the debate, if the commissioners approved funding of the East Arcadia plan it would open the door to other towns to ask for money to fund similar projects in the county. County Chairman Russell Priest explained the county has a Parks and Recreation committee and the proposal from East Arcadia should be carried to the committee first and then the Parks and Recreation committee should bring the proposal to the commissioners if they deemed the park necessary. Priest also said there are other communities besides East Arcadia, in the county that do not have a park or recreation facility.

Martin added there is a long term plan in place for parks and recreation in the county. The first phase is to improve the County Park and after the improvements are made the next step is to address other park and recreation needs in the county.

Peterson made a motion to not accept the proposal by East Arcadia for recreation funding due to this year’s budget restraints. The motion passed.

After the debate was over about the parks and recreation, Commissioner Arthur Bullock made a motion to approve ten (10) new jobs for EMS, which some thought had already been made at the last meeting. The commissioners argued about the proper protocol, and wether or not the motion was valid.

According to Peterson the motion to approve ten new jobs for EMS was made at their last meeting, but the motion included the Sales Tax Referendum being put back on the ballot in November.

Peterson said, “But people don’t stick to their word.”

Commissioner Cogdell asked, “Who promised?”,

Chairman Preist explained the motion for EMS and the Sales Tax at the last meeting passed because Bullock and the other commissioners affiliated with Bladen Improvement Political Action Committee agreed the PAC would support the Sales Tax Referendum this time because the money would fund EMS services to East Arcadia and the commissioners would sign a resolution earmarking the increased sales tax for EMS funding.

The three commissioners affiliated with Bladen Improvement PAC, Cogdell, Bullock and Blanks said they did not agree to support the sales tax, which lead to more disagreement.

The commissioners did hear from EMS Director David Howell and other EMS employees.

“We need employees to run trucks and we need trucks for the employees to run,” Howell said.

According to Howell, there is only one truck to cover the whole county sometimes. Peterson asked if Howell could hire more part-time assistance. Howell said he could do that, but he said he feels that will not resolve his issues.

Dr. Blanks asked Howell to put together a plan that is workable and bring it before the commissioners. Howell said with all due respect he had brought the commissioners workable plans.

In the end, the motion that passed about the EMS jobs and Sales Tax referendum was made by Commissioner Peterson. The motion was to put the ten (10) new EMS jobs on hold until the sales tax referendum was approved in November. No other motion was made to assist EMS with their needs.

Commissioner Jimmie Smith made a point to tell the board of commissioners the EMS jobs needed to be addressed because there is a real need for more jobs for EMS to provide the services the county needs.

Finally, the board did approve the budget without the EMS jobs. You may view the Annual Operating Budget for the new fiscal year here, Adopted Budget Ordinance 061316.

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