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Cleveland County Commissioner’s Check-in December 13, 2022

The final Commissioner’s meeting of 2022 was off to a great start with a member of SW4P being asked to lead the pledge of allegiance. A fantastic reminder of the importance of physically attending local meetings even when streaming options are available.

Being informed is the first step personal activism, and being physically present is direct activism!

All members were present including our County Attorney and Speaker of the House, Tim Moore. There was, of course, a prayer and a ceremonious recognition of veterans and other significant officials present.

SW4P Members at meeting

Apparently there’s $45,000 up for grabs

Steve Padgett, the Chair of Cleveland County Certified Entrepreneurial Community (or CEC), and Director of the CCC Small Business Center addressed the board with familiarity.

The CEC is described on their website as an “economic development strategy” and appears to be a network of small business owners. While unable to find a listof current board members, a list from 2016 had former commissioner, Jason Falls.

Steve went on to assure the board he was not asking for money and thanked Speaker Moore (who was present because he is also the County Attorney) for assisting in securing supplemental funding for all 58 college small business centers across North Carolina. Steve then informed the board that he has an excess of $45,000 in his budget to help small businesses in Cleveland County.

Steve indicated that this funding cannot be given directly to the business, but is instead intended to be used for assistance, like hiring a CPA to help with taxes for the selected small business. Steve asked to board to let him know the business that the County Commissioner’s deemed worthy of this assistance.

Which seemed like an odd request given what a wonderful opportunity this would be to any small business if actually publicized outside of this meeting.

Citizen Recognition

This portion of the meeting limits each speaker to 3 minutes.

The only speaker signed up was Robert Williams who had a busy couple nights as the previous night he attended the School Board meeting. Robert’s first suggestion was that the commissioners “get with their attorneys” about the suppression of the first amendment when it came to citizens speaking in meetings. Robert said this almost as a warning to the board, probably because the previous night at the School Board meeting his time was cut short due to his comments being deemed irrelevant.

Robert went on to point out a lawsuit against Cleveland County, but didn’t mention what it was about, only that it would be heading to the Supreme Court in the next couple of days. Robert then used an example from another county (Cherokee) where lawsuits were taken out due to DSS removing children from homes. These lawsuits allegedly led to a tax increase that cost the taxpayers money.

Items for Consent

The list of these items were long. Many of them had to do with budgets and others with zoning. Listed below are some points of interest:

The county audit has been submitted without issue or penalty, and the 911 Center grant has been received.

Item E: Request to budget 225,000 dollars of prior year General Assembly grant funds that are specifically earmarked for Broad River Greenway improvements.

Item F: Social Services requested a budget of $64,000 in FY23 Rural Operation Assistance Program. Which would go from the county to the TAC Transportation Program. (Cleveland County’s only public transport)

Item G: The Health Department requested 14,000 to offset salaries so that employees can participate in the Med Lifestyle Study Program with UNC Chapel Hill.

There was a new “standard change” that required funds to be accounted for differently:

  • DSS Foster Child Account: 305,000 dollars
  • Sheriff’s Office Inmate Trust Accounts: $875,000
  • Clerk of Court Collections (fines): $1.2 million

Item L: The service weapon of Tim Sims was retired.

Item M: Planning requests a public hearing scheduled for January 17th 2023 (the next commissioner’s meeting) Case 2028 and 2029. This would be to approve a text amendment to the UDO to create a new going district for rural residential. The intent seemed to be to promote more agricultural and scenic districts in the more rural parts of the county.

These text amendments APPEAR to be a first step in rural preservation. Which would be a huge step forward in ensuring that Cleveland County’s famers and rural residents remain a priority with increasing development pressure.

Item P: Another important item was some kind of ordinance for the licensing and tethering of animals. This isn’t the first time something like this has come up at a County Commissioner’s meeting however, it was once again put off. This time until July 2023.

All the items on this Consent Agenda were approved as presented. Plenty of money and changes to continue to follow meeting by meeting.

Public Hearings

There were several standard rezoning requests which were considered. All of which were non-controversial, but Robert Williams insisted on getting up to speak after each zoning presentation. Which, as redundant (and bizarre) as it was, he was clearly exercising his right to public comment.

Public Health Department Update

This update was presented by Tiffany Hanson (you can jump I around 46.03 for the start of her presentation which I recommend).

Tiffany reviewed Cleveland County’s covid response which was truly impressive. There were a whopping 76 vaccination event around the county. These events were hosted by businesses and CCS which was a reassuring community response.

Tiffany then presented the Community Wellness Improvement Plan which would be funded by a 5 million dollar grant from the General Assembly (oddly enough once again thanking Tim Moore). This grant would be used to establish primary care through the Cleveland County Health department as wells mobile health and dental screening at schools, emphasizing the need for preventative care, Tiffany assured the board that no local resource allocation would be needed (heaven forbid).

The presentation included some startling statistics.

  • Cleveland County is 83rd our of 100 counties in North Carolina when It comes to healthy residents.
  • Premature death weighs into that figure about 50%.
  • 80% of the top causes of death in Cleveland County are preventable with early detection and screening.
  • The number one cause of death in Cleveland County is heart disease.
  • Here in Cleveland County, there is 1 doctor per 2,000 patients
  • 14% of Cleveland County is uninsured.

In total, 50% of Cleveland County residents have limited or NO access to health care.
In fact a homeless person in Cleveland County will visit our ER 5 times a year on average, which costs taxpayers around $18,500!!!

These statistics are particularly sobering given that Medicaid expansion has been in limbo in North Carolina since the passing of the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act.

State Republicans have refused to pass Medicaid expansion for years, leaving rural communities like Cleveland County, and its hospitals, without funding that has already been federally provided for them. To add insult to injury, the Speaker of the House and is aware of issues facing Cleveland County and he was present for this very presentation, because coincidentally he is also our county attorney.

After completing the presentation, Tiffany asked the commissioners if they had any questions. Johnny Hutchens seemed as if maybe he wasn’t following the presentation very closely when he asked, “who’s paying for all of this?”. Tiffany graciously once again explained it is a grant from the General Assembly and assured the commissioners that patients with insurance would be billed.

Commissioner Ronnie Whitstine seemed concerned and embarrassed that Cleveland County was 83rd out of 100 counties in NC and made the motion to approve the plan.

Board Appointments

These appointments moved quickly. The commissioners seemed to already know who would be selected for each board.

Cleveland County Agricultural Advisory Board needed 3 people for a three year term:

  • Randell Green
  • Robert Henderson
  • Jospeh Lail

Cleveland County Board of Heath needed 4 people for 3 year terms:

  • Dr. Vollmer
  • Christina Alexander (Sen. Ted Alexander’s daughter)
  • Dr. Hyer
  • Dr. Carter

Cleveland County Historical Preservation Board needs 1 person for a term set to expire in 2023:

  • Greta Rio Cooper

The commission then moved into a closed session to discuss an employment contract.