County tackles financing for new jail

W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — It was an evening of semantics, challenges of memory and, once again, a discussion about where members of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners would sit.

But Monday’s regular meeting of the county’s administration also took on some important agenda items.

The first concerned the $19,985,000 Bladen County Detention and Law Enforcement Center Construction Project, which was stuck in neutral while the county waited on several banks to make proposals for an interim financial agreement.

“The project is progressing, and as part of that process, we have received a loan commitment from the USDA Rural Development,” said County Manager Greg Martin. “But the county is required to obtain the interim financing — and as part of that application, we have sought bids from eight area banks for that financing.”

The eight banks are First Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC, First South, First Citizens, BB&T, Bank of America and SunTrust.

“As of now, we haven’t received any proposals,” Martin said. “So we’ve recontacted each of the banks and asked them to reconsider.”

According to J. Blair Bordeaux, vice president of Bordeaux Construction Company out of Durham, the financing has until March 9 — 120 days after the bids were let — to be received and approved by the county. But Bordeaux said his company isn’t involved with the financing aspect, only the actual construction.

“And we’re ready to go,” he said.

In another matter, the commissioners mulled the possibility of approving a new policy that would officially set where the chairman, vice-chairman and past chairman would be seating — as well as who would assign seats for the rest of the board.

Martin presented a policy in effect with the Wake County Board of Commissioners that establishes a set seat for the three top commissioners and allows the chairman to assign the rest of the seats.

Commissioner Michael Cogdell made a motion to accept that policy, which was seconded by Commissioner Delilah Blanks.

“I think it’s a shame we have to set a policy for every little thing we do when common sense should be enough,” said Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson. “I’m not in favor of this.”

The board voted 4-4 on the motion and Chairman Russell Priest broke the tie in favor of adopting the policy.

Also on Monday, the board spent a good amount of time addressing its fiscal year 2015-16 charitable contributions. At issue was the fact that only five organizations requested money and not all of the money allocated for charitable contributions in the budget was given out. According to Martin, $800 was not allocated.

“I know what my motion was intended to say, but it’s not what was done,” said Cogdell. “I think we ought to go ahead and give the rest of the money to those organizations.

“I don’t remember exactly what I said, and that’s why I asked the county manager to research it,” he added.

According to Martin, the motion heard by he and County Clerk Maria Edwards called for the approval of funding for the five organizations requesting it “at the same level as the previous year.”

Cogdell made the motion to allocate the remaining $800 to the five organizations requesting money, and the motion was seconded by Blanks. But before that motion could be voted on, another motion was presented.

“I don’t think just because we have some extra dollars that we have to give it out,” Peterson said. “We had 10 groups request money the previous year and only five this year, so I think we should keep the money for next year in case we got all 10 asking for money again.”

Peterson made a substitute motion to keep the allocations just as they were previously approved by the board, and Commissioner Jimmie Smith seconded that motion — which set off a firestorm from Cogdell and Blanks over their motion being dismissed when Priest called for a vote on the substitute action.

Peterson’s motion passed by a 5-3 margin, with Priest not casting a vote.

In other board activity:

— Martin introduced and welcomed Shonteia Keaton, the new human resources director for the county, who began her duties on Dec. 14.

— Commissioners instructed Martin to look into the probability and cost of video and audio recording of county meetings. Martin was to report back on the next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

— Martin was also asked by Peterson to look into how the county can improve its customer service with its stakeholders, such as EMS employees.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent

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