ELIZABETHTOWN — Praise and thanks were the order of the evening when the Bladen County Commissioners met for the first time since Hurricane Matthew roared through the region.
Before the regular agenda was tackled, commissioners and county officials took time to commend county employees and residents for how things were handled after the storm passed.
“I really want to commend our sheriff’s office, fire departments, EMS and department heads for the long hours and dedication that helped make things a little better,” said County Chairman Russell Priest. “Because things were bad out there.”
County Manager Greg Martin agreed.
“We also had other counties come and help us, which was a real blessing,” he said. “The teamwork was really incredible.”
Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson also chimed in with praise.
“It was just amazing — Bladen County should hold its head up with the kind of people we have working for us,” he said. “There were no complaints and not the first squabble. Everywhere I went, people were so grateful.”
Commissioner Arthur Bullock, who said he was grateful for the county giving the rescue squad a place to go after its own facility was flooded, was succinct with his thoughts.
“There just a lot of thanks to go around,” he said.
On a related matter, Bladen County Department of Social Services Director Vickie Smith went before the board to give commissioners an update on the food and nutrition services and FEMA’s role after the storm.
“Right now we’re working on getting those on food stamps their replacement benefits,” she said.
Smith added that Bladen County has about 3,700 households on food stamps, totaling about $860,000 in the benefit, and that during the three-day period between Saturday and Monday, DSS handled 647 requests for food-stamp replacements.
Peterson asked if there was any verification process for those requests, but Smith said the USDA regulations do not require a verification of loss.
“We have to take the applicant’s word for what they say they lost,” Smith said.
Smith also said the deadline to request replacement benefits has been extended to Oct. 28.
She added that FEMA representatives visited with folks at the East Bladen High shelter and said there are two ways to reach FEMA to apply for disaster help. Those ways are to call 1-800-621-3362 or go online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
In other business, the county:
— Heard from Bladen County Public Library Director Kelsey Edwards about the programs and opportunities at each of the three library branches, located in Elizabethtown, Clarekton and Bladenboro.
— Heard from Kathleen Riely of the Cape Fear Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., who spoke about a grant opportunity for a regional drainage study in the group’s five county area of Bladen, Columbus, Brunswick, Pender and New Hanover. She told commissioners the study would look at flooding issues that affect both residents and farmers. The grant request, which must include a unit of government, would come from that state — and the commissioners approved a resolution supporting the study.
— Waived the building inspection fee for storm-related damage repairs.
— Recognized 17 county employees for milestone years of service. They were: Cereca Newkirk with DSS, 30 years; Sharon McGavock with DSS, 25 years; Emily Brunson with DSS, 25 years; Cathy Mazur with DSS, 20 years; Sylvia Charkles with DSS, 10 years; Jennifer Dunham with DSS, five years; Charmonia Buie with DSS, five years; Michael McGavock with the Division on Aging, five years; Donna Cagle with EMS, 10 years; Marion Moore with EMS, five years; Stephen Hester with EMS, five years; Glenda Bagwell with EMS, five years; Twanna Lewis with Health & Human Services, 10 years; Lisa Britt with Health & Human Servicves, five years; Leigh Cromartie with the public library, five years; Wanda Monroe with the sheriff’s office, 20 years; and Tramain Harvey with the sheriff’s office, five years.
The next meeting of the county commissioners will be Monday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.