ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Commissioners handled an agenda that included 36 advisory board appointments and a presentation from the CEO of Eastpointe to update the commissioners on the company’s status.
But the highlight of the meeting may have come when David Howell, chief of the county’s EMS, and Bradley Kinlaw, director of emergency services, came before the board to give an overview of the county’s response and staffing efforts.
Howell told the board that Bladen County is categorized as a rural county, which has its own set of standards set by the state for response times on emergency calls. Overall, the state looks for a response time to any part of the county of 17 minutes, and Bladen County EMS currently has an average time of about 21 minutes.
“But that represents a shaving of a minute from the year before,” Howell said.
Kinlaw told commissioners that Bladen County EMS responded to its 10,000th call on Monday.
“So the men and women of EMS have been busy,” Howell added.
In response to a question from Board Vice-Chairman Arthur Bullock, Howell said the county has four 911 trucks in service during the day, along with a split-shift medic truck from noon to midnight. In addition, the county has two transport vehicles in service during the day.
before Howell and Kinlaw could get away, Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson wanted to clear up some items from the Dec. 7 meeting.
“I was off my game when Mr. Horace Munn came before the board and made some accusations,” he said. “And I wish he were here tonight to hear this.
“First of all, can you tell me if there has been anything found out about the call that took 45 minutes to East Arcadia (when Commissioner Delilah Blanks was in a car accident?” Peterson asked Howell.
Howell said the truck in that part of the county had to be brought to a more central location because the other trucks were all busy on calls at the time.
“So the trucks are moved according to what is going on at any given time,” Peterson said. “That makes sense.
“Also, Mr. Munn said one of my relatives had needed an ambulance recently and the next day a truck was put in Bladenboro,” Peterson continued. “He wouldn’t tell me who that relative was, but Mr. Bullock here says he heard it was my mother. My mother has been dead for 5 years.
“And Mr. Howell, can you tell me what would happen if a white employee of EMS refused to work in the East Arcadia area as has been claimed?” Peterson asked.
“There would be severe disciplinary action, I can assure you,” Howell said.
“And finally, Mr. Munn also made reference several times to ‘black lives matter,’” Peterson said. “I want people to know that ALL lives matter here in Bladen County.”
In other board activity, Eastpointe CEO Ken Jones presented the commissioners with a look at where the company stands. He told the board that Eastpointe has a 21-member board, of which Commissioner Billy Ray Pait is a member, and serves a 12-county area. He said the company operates on a $300 million annual budget, and is currently looking into ways of reinvesting back into the counties according to the needs of the communities.
“I think we are in a much better position than we were a couple of years ago,” Jones said. “We are much healthier financially.”
He added that Eastpointe served about 40,000 people during the past year — including about 1,500 in Bladen County — an overall total that is 5,000 more than the previous year. he also said Eastpointe has a 24/7/365 emergency call line available at 1-800-913-6109. He said that between 98 and 99 percent of the calls are answered within 30 seconds, which is well above the state average.
In other action, the board:
— Approved a request for four one-day training sessions at White Lake by the 1st Special Warfare Training Group from Fort Bragg.
— Adopted a resolution in support of naming the new Cape Fear River bridge at Tar Heel after Col. James Richardson as requested by the Harmony Hall Plantation Committee.
— Approved 36 advisory board appointments for the next 12 months.
The Board of Commissioners will meet next month on Jan. 4 and Jan. 19, both times at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.