ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Commissioners took up the job of electing a chairman and vice chairman Monday and, in what was prognosticated by some, Ray Britt was elected chairman and Michael Cogdell vice chairman.
Britt was nominated for the top post along with Charles Ray Peterson, and Britt earned the position with votes from Russell Priest, Arthur Bullock, Ophelia Munn-Goins, Cogdell and himself.
Cogdell was then nominated for the vice chairman seat along with Ashley Trivette, and Cogdell took the position with votes from the same five that elected Britt.
Once that exercise concluded, and following a quick reception, the board heard from Cynthia Singletary, a Bladen County attorney, who spoke passionately about the growing opioid crisis in the county, state and country. She told the board that southeast North Carolina is one of the hardest hit areas of the state.
“I can tell you story after story about how opioids have ruined someone’s life,” she said. “And it’s not druggies and criminals it’s our nieces, nephews and neighbors’ children.”
Singletary told the commissioners that opioids attach to the pleasure and memory receptors in the brain, making it very difficult to stop using the drug — and she pointed a finger squarely at drug companies.
“These drug companies knew these opioids were addictive,” she said. “But it was easier to pay the fines and let people continue to get addicted and protect their profits, which are huge.
“It’s a lot like the fight against the tobacco companies,” she added. “Until there was proof they knew it was addictive, that fight was very difficult.”
Singletary came to the commissioners for the purpose of asking the board to join a coalition that so far includes 46 other counties in the fight against opioid abuse. A total of six law firms in the state are leading the effort, which could include a joint lawsuit against major drug companies.
Commissioners accepted the packet provided by Singletary, which included the contract between the county and coalition. Peterson, who is chairman of the Bladen County Opioid Task Force, invited Singletary to join the group at its next meeting Jan. 9 at the health department.
In other news, the board:
— Heard from Sheriff Jim McVicker and Capt, Jeff SIngletary with an update on the need for 53 ballistiv helmets that would outfit all field personnel at a cost of $14,147. The sheriff also spoke about a proposed fence project at the Bladen County Courthouse for inmate delivery and loading. Neither item was voted on.
— Heard from Computer Operations Director Robin Hewitt who spoke about anti-virus options for the county’s computer system. He said he had been looking at the newer generation of software and would come back to the board with recommendations and costs.
— Recognized Sandra R. Cain for her 33 years of service with the county’s Cooperative Extension Office. Cain retired from her position as director on Dec. 1. Also recognized was J.L. Lennon, who retired Dec. 1 from his position with the county’s Solid Waste Department after 13 years.
— Cogdell asked the board to direct County Manager Greg martin to look into the cost of videoing county meetings. A 6-3 vote approved the request.
The next meeting of the county commissioners will be Monday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-8562-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.