LUMBERTON — The Board of Commissioners voted Monday to take control of two county agencies’ governing boards.
The board voted 5-3 to approved Raymond Cummings’ motion to have the commissioners oversee the governing bodies of the county’s Social Services and Health departments. The vote means the two boards will now act as advisory panels and the Board of Commissioners will make final decisions on matters related to the departments.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Lance Herndon and Commissioners Pauline Campbell and Jerry Stephens voted against Cummings’ motion. Vice Chairman Faline Dial and Commissioners David Edge, Tom Taylor, Roger Oxendine, and Raymond Cummings cast yes votes.
“I think that’s too great of a project to do on the telephone,” Commissioner Jerry Stephens said.
Campbell tried to make a motion to table Cumming’s motion until the next meeting after more information could be gathered, but her motion failed because his had already passed.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Stephens said.
Stephens asked County Attorney Rob Davis to consult with the Lumber River Council of Governments to determine if the substitute motion Campbell had placed would have been enough to overrule the vote. Davis said that only one motion can be considered on the floor at once, and the vote passed with a second before Campbell’s motion. But the attorney said he would ask.
“I did not expect to come making this decision,” Herndon said. “I am not in favor of it.”
The decision had been discussed by the Board of Commissioners for about two years, with the idea that the Lumber River Council of Governments may take the board over, Taylor said.
“I’m on the DSS board, and I haven’t been told that one time,” Herndon said.
In other news, commissioners approved giving the Board of Commissioners’ chairman the authority to declare a countywide state of emergency if needed, without the assembly of the entire board. Doing so would allow the board to begin response to emergency situations, such as Hurricane Isaias, in the future.
During Monday’s meeting, Commissioners Edge, Stephens and Oxendine said they want the board to meet in the county’s new administration building on North Chestnut Street. County Manager Kellie Blue said she would work to make that happen.
The commissioners were told the county plans to move the Robeson County Wellness Center into the old administration building on Elm Street, Blue said.
Plumbing and other issues need to be addressed before that can happen, she said. A plan for meeting in the new building will need to be sketched out and presented to commissioners.
“I would like to see that move forward, and I understand we can’t do but so much at the time,” Edge said.
Blue told the commissioner that plans to tear down the DSS building on N.C. 72 have stalled because the cost, $700,000, is too high, for now.
“Please know that I am actively seeking some demolition grants for that,” Blue said.
County Health Department Director Bill Smith told the commissioners that Robeson County now has the highest percentage rate for positive COVID-19 cases in the state, having passed Montgomery County. American Indians in the county have highest rate of positives, followed by African Americans and few Whites.
“It is throughout this community,” Smith said. “It’s not employee-driven anymore.”
He is worried about students this school year, Smith said. But, he would have never shut down schools in the first place.
“We’d have known what would’ve worked and what didn’t work,” Smith said.
County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Chavis briefed the commissioners on preparations for Isaias, a tropical storm at the time the meeting started.
Chavis said residents were encouraged to shelter in place at the homes of family members or friends, because of COVID-19 restrictions that would make operations of shelters more difficult.
She said first responders were on call, but would be ordered to stand down if winds were 35 mph or more.
“They know to expect the worst during the night,” Chavis said.
The threat of tornadoes would be high Monday evening into Tuesday morning, she said.
“We could be looking at flash flooding,” she said.
Also on Monday, commissioners congratulated County Information Technology Director Terry Buchanan, for his appointments to the National Association of Counties’ vice chair seat in the Telecommunications Committee and Technology Steering Committee, and seats on the Arts and Culture Commission and Information Technology Standing Committee.
In other business, commissioners approved:
— A request to rezone a .45-acre track of land at 242 Terry Sanford Drive in Maxton from residential agricultural district to residential district to allow property owner Terry Pate to build a two-story garage.
— A request for a conditional use permit by Charles Hunt to allow a third home to be built on about 2.50 acres at 102 Milestone Drive in Lumberton.
— A conditional use permit request from Herdman Ronald Revels III, of Revels Insurance Agency Inc., to clear the way for the establishment of a used car dealership at 13567 U.S. 301 North in St. Pauls.
— Adopting the Bladen, Columbus and Robeson Regional Mitigation Plan.
— Accepting bids of $6,000 and the cost of advertising for 162 Summer Hill Road in Lumber Bridge and a bid for $4,000 plus the cost of advertising for a property on Pansey Drive in Maxton
The commissioners tabled a conditional use permit request from Ronald and Jean Bruton to allow the establishment of a mechanic shop on about 58.24 acres of land on N.C. 211 West. Commissioners asked to see more paperwork and plan to revisit the request during their September meeting.