ELIZABETHTOWN — According to Kip McClary, central operations director for Bladen County, the new detention center will be far and away more high-tech than anything the county now has in operation and needs someone with the knowledge and training to oversee it.
That was the message brought before the Bladen County commissioners on Monday.
“This will be an opportunity with a lot of new technology,” McClary said. “There will be a wide variety of high-tech controls for security, water and lighting — above anything anyone we have now completely understands.”
The new proposed position would be part-time with the availability of 1,000 over the course of a year and would pay between $16 and $24 per hour depending on experience. The individual hired would be on call 24/7.
But some commissioners weren’t sold on the idea.
Commissioners Michael Cogdell and Arthur Blanks questioned whether there was someone on staff already who could handle the added technology, as well as whether the 1,000 hours would be enough.
“The new technology is really advanced and can’t be handled by the current staff — although I do anticipate some cross-training along the way,” McClary said. “And the 1,000 hours is a starting point.”
“We’re hoping we don’t need 1,000 hours,” added Chairman Charles Ray Peterson. “But if we need more, it will come back before this board for discussion.”
McClary also said the new jail will be under a one-year warranty and, “should something break, it will be taken care of.”
However, he also said filling the proposed position was paramount.
“We need someone to observe everything getting installed and watch it getting tested,” McClary said. “With the facility opening in May, we need to get the position advertised, hired and someone on board as quickly as possible.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the request.
In other action Monday, the board:
— Heard from Tax Collector Carol Cain about three foreclosed Bladenboro properties that had purchase bids on them. The first, with a county cost of $7,499 and a bid of $7,500, was accepted; the second, with a county cost of $10,935 and a bid of $11,400, was accepted; and the third, with a county cost of $4,397 and a bid of $4,500, was accepted.
— Scheduled a pre-budget public hearing for Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m.
— Heard from Cogdell about a new initiative he is starting, Bladen Resource Center, that will assist local residents with any needs they may have in getting help beating addictions. The effort will act as a referral service only.
— Heard from Jan Hester-Maynor, executive director of the Lumber River Council of Governments, who told the commissioners about applications for funding and pool membership in a disaster recovery program aimed at helping area residents affected by Hurricane Matthew. The assistance would range from $5,000 to $40,000.
— Were introduced Tina Clark, an auditing accounting technician who will count out the cash drawers in various offices and make sure they reconcile with the records in the finance office — as well as perform daily audits in any department that has accounts payable/receivable.
— Heard from David Howard, director of the county’s Health & Human Services Agency, who gave an update on the Eastpointe kiosk usage; the water sample testing at White Lake following last summer’s rash outbreak reported by 65 individuals in July and August; and the communicable disease program, which pointed out that salmonella as the county’s biggest annual problem.
— Were visited by Robert Stafford of Lifebridge, which offers assistance to individuals battling addictions and other afflictions. He told the board the company was connected with Eastpointe and had it main office in Lumberton — though the new office recently opened on West Broad Street in Elizabethtown.
— Heard from Donald Melvin, owner of Tar Heel Outdoors, who told commissioners about felony arrests he endured in 2008 and 2014. He said both incidents had no evidence and that he was mistreated by both local and state officials while he was in custody, as well as during a week-long stay at Dorthea Dix. Though he made no request of the board, Melvin told the Bladen Journal earlier in the day he planned to file a civil suit against the county, the sheriff’s office and the state.
— Heard from Kirby Johnson of Garland who, while serving a tour of duty in Iraq with the military, received a water bill that included numerous late fees on a property that was vacant totaling $1,178. He asked if the board could relieve him of the bill and Peterson, who first thanked Johnson for his service, directed County Manager Greg Martin to look into the bill and see what could be done.
The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be Monday, Feb. 20, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.