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Brunswick County leaders discuss department goals for FY2022/23

Some leaders got emotional at Tuesday’s meeting as they expressed what they say are long overdue changes needed to help veterans in the county
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 4:52 PM EST
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BOLIVIA, N.C. (WECT) - With Brunswick County being one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, it’s no surprise that keeping up with that growth is top of mind for leaders there.

“I think we’re very cohesive, very together on our approach and where we want to go and we want to do the very very best job we can for the citizens of Brunswick County,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Randy Thompson.

For nearly five hours, commissioners in Brunswick County heard from department heads on the goals they’ve set for the coming fiscal year.

One concern that multiple department heads brought up was that of staffing issues. In some cases, there are concerns that the department’s growth means it’s outgrown the space it has available. That’s the case for the Sheriff’s Office, which has filled its office and storage space almost to capacity. The hurdles don’t end there, though. Like in many other departments, Sheriff John Ingram says they’re seeing problems when it comes to recruitment and retention. The same goes for public housing, emergency services, veterans services and utilities.

“How do we retain them, how do we make sure they’re educated, how do we pay them and keep equity in them to ensure we keep them and retain them?” said emergency services director Ed Conrow.

Both the Sheriff’s Office and Utilities Department are waiting on results from pay studies, but commissioners want to look at what other factors could be leading to the retention problem, too.

Sheriff Ingram brought up a number of upgrades that commissioners will need to consider when deciding on the FY2022/2023 budget. Right now, the BCSO officers drive Dodge Charger V8s. Since those vehicles are no longer being manufactured, The sheriff says it’s time to start looking at the V6 with turbocharged engines as another option.

The Sheriff’s Office is also in need of a VIPER radio overhaul as that radio system will become obsolete in 2025. Sheriff Ingram says that upgrade needs to happen sooner rather than later and commissioners agree. They say that’s high on their list of priorities and hope to make moves to replace those radios, soon.

Another issue is affordable housing. That doesn’t just mean housing for your average person. Right now, there are 30 people with Section 8 vouchers who are struggling to find landlords that will work with them.

“It’s not just finding affordable [housing], it’s finding a landlord that is willing to participate within the housing choice voucher program,” said public housing director Cathy Lytch. “If there are landlords that are willing to learn more about that program, willing to participate, we encourage them to contact our office because that’s what’s really going to help us.”

At least a portion of the money that Brunswick County gives to Public Housing this fiscal year will likely be used to conduct workshops to teach landlords about the program.

Some leaders got emotional at Tuesday’s meeting as they expressed what they say are long overdue changes needed to help veterans in the county.

“Our next available appointment for our clients is April 18,” said senior veteran services officer Anita Hartsell. “Veterans shouldn’t have to wait that long.”

Hartsell says her team answers hundreds of calls and spends hours each day returning the calls they missed. The Veteran Services Department requested funding to hire an additional person to help with the massive workload employees are dealing with. Commissioners Frank Williams and Mike Forte said they would rather give the department two employees, as the county has nearly 15,000 veterans to serve.

“[It’s important to make] sure that we have the staffing available to address the needs and concerns of those that gave their service to ensure that we’re able to provide a service today,” said Commissioner Thompson.

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