By Charlotte Smith
As par for course the commissioners debated about policies and procedures during the first part of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners meeting held on June 17th at the Bladen County Courthouse in Elizabethtown. Important budget and water matters were addressed during the proceedings as well.
Commissioner Ashely S. Trivette was excused from the meeting according to Chairman of the Board, Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson.
During the approval of the consent items on the agenda a debate ensued. Commissioner Dr. Opheila Munns-Goins questioned the minutes from the June 7th meeting listed as item D. on the agenda. She questioned policies due to her vote being counted as affirmative because she walked out of the June 7th meeting unexcused.
Commissioner Mr. Michael Cogdell said he wanted his vote removed from the minutes because his vote was not necessary by law. He explained his view point of the North Carolina statue and why he thought his vote should be removed from the June 7th meeting.
Commissioner Mr. Arthur Bullock asked if the County By-laws contradicted the state statues.
“If they walk out of a meeting unexcused then their vote is considered affirmative,” Bladen County Attorney Allen Johnson explained referring to the rules of the board.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Charles Ray Peterson said, “We have govern policies here that we hope the Chairman and Board are going to follow, which says if you get up and leave and it’s not excused, it’s a yes vote.”
Commissioner Cogdell said, “I’m not trying to make an issue, but you’re trying to tell me if I got up and left out of here because I was sick, you’re going to tell me I was voting in the affirmative.”
Commissioner Peterson said, “I’m going to answer it for you. If you get sick and you need to leave, you’re suppose to ask the board and the board votes on it and they say yes, it’s ok for you to leave Mr. Cogdell and then you are excused. That’s what our policy says.”
Commissioner Dr. Munn-Goins said, “The reason why I walked out, I made it clear that the issue had already been discussed. I had a little content[ion] to the fact that you’re wasting my time to travel here to vote when obviously, like you said, you already had the vote. My walk out was to display just that, my content[ion].”
“I have not problem with that, but we have policies here that I hope the board will follow and the policy said when you get up and walk out and it’s not excused, it’s a yes vote,” Commissioner Peterson said.
“I’ll just call Josh Stein’s office,” Commissioner Cogdell said.
“If you want to take legal action, take legal action, I don’t know what else to tell you,” Commissioner Peterson said.
Commissioner Cogdell then asked for a motion to be made for the June 7th meeting be taken off the agenda for a vote until more clarification could be given on the correct procedures. Cogdell made the motion and Dr. Munn-Goins made the second.
Commissioner Ray Britt asked if the motion was just to have the vote on the minutes for June 7th tabled until the next meeting. Commissioner Peterson said, “Yes,” and then called for the vote.
The others in favor of the motion were Commissioners Bullock, Britt, Russell Priest and Daniel Dowless. Commissioners Peterson and David Gooden voted against the motion.
Commissioner Bullock made a motion to remove item 2. A. from the agenda in reference to Consider Approving Remote Participation. Cogdell made the second. The vote was unanimous.
Commissioner Britt brought recommendations before the commissioners. He started with, “I’m a countywide commissioner.”
Commissioner Britt went on to explain, he had three major concerns and he would like to ask the board for support with “one time money and not raising taxes.”
Kelly has holes in the dike and pipe issues, according to Commissioners Britt.
“I’m asking you tonight [for funding] in reference to the Kelly situation so that they can get the dikes plugged and possibly prevent more disasters,” Commissioner Britt said before asking for the Board of Commissioners support in funding. “…To assist them with the amount up to what they have paid in taxes if need be to secure those holes prior to another storm coming in,” Commissioner Britt said.
The second concern Commissioner Britt brought before the board were lights for a park in Bladenboro. He asked the commissioners to fund up to $3,500 to help the park with the lights.
“This is not money we are going to spend every year folks, this is one time money and when I say that I mean we take it out of the fund balance,” Commissioner Britt explained.
The East Arcadia park was the third concerned. “It was destroyed,” Commissioner Britt explained.
Britt asked the commissioners again to help the East Arcadia community to rebuild their park with funding up to $25,000 with one time money.
Commissioner Britt recounted, he wanted the Board to consider the items before they approved the budget because all three items could be funded one time for under $100,000.
During the budget discussions of the meeting Commissioner Gooden addressed Commissioner Britt’s recommendation about funds for the Kelly dike. “There may be enough money in that fund to pay for what has got to be done.”
Commissioner Peterson said, “There are three things I want to talk about. I’ve been following the issues at the Kelly Dike since day one and the guy said… he will temporarily fix it for $35,000, and there is $35,000 in the budget.” He added, “I don’t know how you can decide how much money you need to put in the fund for the Kelly dike when supposedly you already have enough money to do it.”
Mr. Peterson continued, “The second thing is the lights in Bladenboro should be the responsibility of the Town of Bladenboro. If I’m not mistaken, I was told last week, they got a $250,000 grant to put lights on that park. Unless I have been told wrong, they got the money to put the lights up at the park.”
“On the East Arcadia thing, I’m sorry, but me personally, I’m not going to support any lump sum tax dollars going to any community. I know in 2014 there was $10,000 given to East Arcadia for basketball courts, balls and such and today it’s totally destroyed.”
Dr. Munn-Goins countered Mr. Peterson’s remarks. She explained the money isn’t the commissioners to give, but it is the tax payers money. “The park in East Arcadia is used,” she stated.
“We are losing our citizens in Bladen County and we are going to lose more,” Dr. Munn-Goins said in support of the funding for the Kelly dike.
Commissioner Peterson explained it is “pre-mature to fund any of the three items” Commissioners Britt recommended because the Kelly dike, the Bladenboro park and the East Arcadia community already had funding or will be receiving funding.
The motions made by Commissioner Britt for “one money” funding for the Kelly dike, the Bladenboro park and the East Arcadia park was passed 6 to 2 with Commissioners Peterson and Gooden voting against the motions.
The proposed budget for the fiscal year for 2019-2020 was approved with an unanimous vote.
Water issues were also addressed during the meeting. Commissioner Arthur Bullock presented a Power Point presentation on behalf of White Oak resident, Ms. Brenda Tatum regarding water concerns on Live Oak Methodist Church Road.
Bullock read from an email sent by Ms. Tatum. He said, “She can’t drink the water, can’t wash, can’t cook.”
“She has pumped out water from her pool and has to repaint her pool,” Bullock said as he presented photos of the pool according to Ms. Tatum.
He said, “As of June 17th the water was ok according to Ms. Tatum.” He told the commissioner Ms. Tatum comments, “The water department needs to be more transparent with water concerns to the community.”
She is looking for some assistance with her water bill, according to Commissioner Bullock’s report.
Commissioner Munn-Goins asked if the county had any bottles of water.
Chairman Peterson told the commissioners there would not be any questions about the water answered from the commissioners during the meeting. All the questions regarding water would be addressed in writing, according to Commissioner Peterson.
Before moving on further, Chairman Peterson addressed another debate that took place at the last board meeting.
“At the last meeting Commissioner Cogdell brought up that I sent a letter to Senator Rabon, Danny Britt, Rep. William Brisson and I think I sent it to Senator Brown,” Commissioner Peterson explained. The letter was sent on behalf of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners by instruction of Commissioner Peterson.
“I probably should have asked the board and I’m here to apologize. Mr. Cogdell I apologize, you were right,” Commissioner Peterson said in reference to the letter.
White Oak resident Brenda Tatum appeared before the commissioners to assert her opinion. She explained why she didn’t feel like she, or other members in her community should have to pay their water bills this month due to the water quality her community has received lately. She said before letters about the water quality were sent out her water was milky. She testified to not being able to use her water.
Mr. Edge and Mr. McClary will provided the commissioners with Local Water Supply Plans for Bladen County Water District for East Bladen, West Bladen and Tar Heel.
A test well was drilled according to the Mr. Kip McClary on behalf of the Water District. However, the water quality came back high in iron with the test well. “We want to try a different location if we can,” McClary said.
The funding for the project is in place and in the budget it does have the cost of a filtration system in case the county needs to keep the new well location that has high iron levels, according to McClary.
A well water quality report should be distributed to the board in the next week or so according to the Water District representative.
“As soon as you get it, please send it because I get calls every week,” Commissioner Peterson said.
Other items the Bladen County Board of Commissioners addressed were as follows:
Mr. Wright asked the board about a recreation grant and why the funding for the grant was not available. Commissioner Peterson said, “Until we get a policy, we can’t do anything.”
Commissioner Dr. Munn-Goins asked for the recreation grant issue to be put on the next agenda.
“There are a lot of people in our community that need the money. We would also like rules and guidelines on how the money is to be used,” Mr. Wright said.
Mr. McClary provided an overview of the bid process and a recommendation to award Highland Paving Company a contract to provide pavement resurfacing services for the library and an overview of the bid process and a recommendation to award Highland Paving Company a contract to provide pavement improvement services at the Bladen County Emergency Services Training Facility. Both votes were passed unanimously.
Ms. Terri Duncan, Director of Health and Human Services presented recommendations on behalf of the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee for the county to adopt the following policies:
Internal Control Process
New Employee Orientation
Fees, Eligibility, and Billing Policy and Procedure
Environmental Health Migrant Housing Policy
Environmental Health Tattoo Program Policy
The policies have been updated to reflect a change in administration and procedures for determining fees and costs, according to the report. Commissioner Britt made the motion to accept the recommendation and Commissioner Dr. Munn-Goins made the second and the vote was unanimous.
Mrs. Coleman will review the attached Financial Dashboard for the eleven-month period ending May 31, 2019.
Bladen County advisory appointments were made.
The County Manager gave the calendar of events.
The vote was unanimous to restore the Teen Court Program in County Budget.
All three offers for the county property bids were approved.
The commissioners went into closed session in Accordance with NCGS 143-318.11(a)(6) Personnel.
View the board meetings here: