County votes to sell home health agency

W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Commissioners used a closed session Monday to discuss the possibility of selling its Home Health Agency and, without much fanfare, voted to do just that.

Only Commissioner Jimmie Smith voted against the resolution in open session.

“I had several older folks call me recently and ask that we not close the facility,” Smith said. “So my vote reflected what I told them I would do.

But honestly, I understand why it has to be done,” he added. “It’s been losing a lot of money for a while now.”

According to recent conservative reports, the Bladen County Home Health Agency has lost more than $30,000 a month for an extended period of time. David Howell, director of Bladen County Health & Human Services, recently told the commissioners that it was his hope the Home Health Agency would break even in the coming year.

But the Board of Commissioners weren’t willing to take a wait and see attitude and instead decided to pull the plug.

According to the resolution passed Monday, the commissioners tasked County Manager Greg Martin with publicizing the sale in an effort to gather at least five purchase proposals.

The board also voted to hold a public hearing regarding the sale of the Home Health Agency during its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Also on Monday, the board heard from Emergency Medical Services Director David Howell, who requested that commissioners approve a temporary ambulance service agreement with Sampson County for up to 60 days.

The request comes on the heels of the sudden closing of Johnston Ambulance Service on Aug. 31.

“This would be an opportunity to assist a neighboring county, plus help generate additional revenue for the EMS department,” Howell said.

“I think it’s a good thing, because there may come a time when we need assistance from them,” said Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson.

The request was unanimously approved.

In other busiess, commissioners:

— Heard from Robin Hewitt, director of computer operations, who said there has been a payment problem for those trying to pay their water bills online because a second website has appeared on Google and Bing that presents itself as Bladen County Water District but isn’t. Hewitt said those paying online should use only the first website at the top of the page, and not the second one on the list.

“We have no affiliation with the second website,” he said, “and it’s causing people to be charged a $10 late fee when they thought their bill was being paid on time.”

— Approved a proclamation in honor of Specialty Products Technologies, formerly Danaher of Elizabethtown, for its 50th anniversary.

— Waived the park fee for Bladen County Firefighters Association to hold a softball tournament at the county park on U.S. 7-1 South. The proposed date is Oct. 2.

— Recognized Beverly Spaulding for her 28 years with the Bladen County Department of Social Services. Spaulding retired July 31.

— Recognized Joan Allen for her 22 years with the Bladen County Division on Aging. Allen retired Aug. 31.

— Had discussion about the rules of procedure for the Bladen County Board of Commissioners. Martin told the board that, in a number if places, the rules state that no action can be taken by the board on items that are not part of the agenda.

“That said, we would like to be as accommodating as possible,” he said, “so that we can be sure to handle county business in as timely a manner as we can.”

Commissioner Arthur Bullock suggested that a deadline be set for items to be added to the agenda, and offered noon on the Friday before a board meeting, but Peterson said it should be the end of the business day on those Fridays.

The board never came to a conclusion on the issue and adjourned.

The next meeting of the commissioners will be Monday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

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

W. Curt Vincent

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