County touts its 2015 accomplishments

W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Employees of Bladen County have numerous reasons to be proud of accomplishments they were a part of in 2015.

That was the message Monday when the Board of Commissioners met in a regular session. County Manager Greg Martin spent several moments giving the county’s annual report and outlining the many areas where things were improved.

“We had a very productive and positive year in 2015,” Martin said.

The annual report detailed for commissioners and the public accomplishments that included grants received, new businesses, Golden LEAF funding for projects, Bladen County Sheriff’s Office programs, inmate labor from Columbus County, E-911 improvements, highlights from the Department of Social Services, EMS and the Bladen County Health Department, tax office revaluation efforts, recycling improvements, Bladen County Parks and Recreation upgrades, the Division of Aging workshops and programs, and library system initiatives.

“We have every reason to be proud of our county employees,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Russell Priest.

Also on Monday, the commissioners heard a overview of the county’s Veterans Service Office from its director, Larry Hammond.

“I have a passion for veterans and enjoy working with them, since I am one myself,” said Hammond, who served 25 years in the Coast Guard.

Hammond related to the board that the county is losing its veterans, as many of the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam Conflict have begun to pass away.

“In 2013, we had 3,086 veterans in Bladen County. Right now, we have 3,016 veterans here,” Hammond said. “The veteran population is dying away, and that’s not good.”

However, he said the dollars coming into Bladen County from the federal government for veterans has gone up.

“In 1993, we received $3.5 million. In 2013, it went up to $15.3 million,” he said. “And in 2015, we received $20.25 million.”

Hammond went on to explain that his office, which he operates three days a week, deals with VA benefits, appeals on disability claims, burial expenses and more — all of which require work with federal VA representatives through Newnan, Ga., Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“We’re a very busy office,” Hammond said.

In other business, the board:

— Recognized members of Elizabethtown Boy Scout Troop No. 600.

— Proclaimed February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The proclamation was presented to Ryan Lantrip, outreach specialist for Families First, Inc.

— Approved a contractor’s cap on the maximum cost for the Law Enforcement and Detention Center construction project at $16.5 million. The total cost of the project, including architecture and other non-brick and mortar items, will be $19.3 million.

— Heard requests from Tax Assessor Renee Davis to approve a bid for county-owned property, approve a reorganization of the Revenue Administration Office and to approve an agreement with a contract real property appraiser. Commissioners approved all three requests.

— Heard from representatives of the Health Department, who asked for permission to renew an application for a Young Families Connect grant; approval for a memorandum of agreement between Young Families Connect and Bladen Community College; approval to raise the rabies vaccine fee from $200 to $200; and an approval of a mandated sliding fee scale for clinical services at the Health Department. Commissioners approved all requests.

— Made numerous appointments to county advisory boards.

— Set dates for the upcoming budget calendar — including March 21 for a public hearing, April 5 to April 7 for department-head meetings and April 15 through June 16 for workshops with the board.

The next meeting of the county commissioners will be March 7 at 6:30 p.m.

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

W. Curt Vincent

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