ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County commissioners were told the new $20 million Detention and Law Enforcement Center being constructed on Smith Circle Drive is 70 percent completed and, if all goes as planned, should be opening on time in the summer of 2017.
Blair Bordeaux, president of Bordeaux Construction, gave the commissioners an update Monday during the board’s regular meeting.
“We’ve had no recordable incidents during the construction phase, which means it’s been a safe site so far,” he said. “And we expect that the pre-fab detention cells will arrive on Tuesday.”
Bordeaux also said about 20 percent of the workforce is from Bladen County — representing about 14 of the 60 workers — though he said the numbers fluctuate day to day.
“We do try to keep as many local workers on the site as we can, and we’re proud that we’ve been able to average that number,” Bordeaux said. “But we also have a problem with local folks working one day or part of a day and not remaining on the job. One of the biggest reasons we are given for that is that it’s been too hot.”
Commissioner Delilah Blanks wanted to delve into that issue more deeply, but Bordeaux said he wasn’t able to say why some workers stayed and others didn’t.
“We need to find out why Bladen County people don’t stay,” she said. “Are they being treated well, are they being paid enough or are they not trained enough?
“If they don’t work, then we’ll be filling that jail before it’s even built,” she added.
Bordeaux tried to assure Blanks that it wasn’t just Bladen County’s workforce that had problems.
“The problem is bigger than Bladen County,” he said. “It’s really a statewide problem.”
When asked by Commissioner Michael Cogdell about the potential for expansion at the facility, Bordeaux said the plans included that potential and that the site did have space for expansion of the housing area.
In other business, commissioners:
— Recognized the Bladen County 10-under softball all-star team that won the North Carolina championship.
— Asked that County Manager Greg Martin look into the Stepping Up Initiative, which focuses on mental health reforms in the jail.
— Heard from Parks & Recreation Director Grant Pait, who spoke about what his department is responsible for — including the U.S. 701 South park, King Street gym and batting cages in Bladenboro. He also spoke about some of the youth programs.
— Heard an update from Carol Strickland, coordinator of the Young Families Connect Program, and Kayla Brianne, who also works with the program for ages 13 to 24 in the county. The program recently received a $218,000 grant that covers positions, research programs, transportation, continuing education, child care, etc. A total of 132 people have been served by the program this year, 121 women and nine men.
— Health & Human Services Director David Howard was given the approval of the board to allow a kiosk from Eastpointe at the Health Department that will allow clients to access educational websites. He also received the OK to approve the fiscal year 2016-17 Medication Assistance Program grant application, as well as approve a new state law that allows for Rabies Post Exposure Management of dogs and cats.
— Adopted a resolution in support of the Rural Impact County Challenge, as requested by Martin.
The next meeting of the county commissioners will be Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.