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Brunswick County commissioners are headed in the right direction.
On Monday, commissioners heard information about House Bill 438. The law allows each North Carolina county to determine the composition of its social services and health boards.
Counties can have separate DSS and health boards, like Brunswick County has now. They also have the option to dissolve those boards and assume responsibilities as commissioners.
A third option is to dissolve those boards and create a new board that oversees both operations.
The consolidated board could have up to 25 people representing a variety of professions. That board would make policy and fee-setting decisions, and county commissioners would appoint members.
A director of human services would oversee united services. Currently, Brunswick County has a health director and a DSS director. The director of health services would report to the county manager. Currently the directors report to their respective boards.
We understand why there may be apprehension about consolidation of services, especially if there are concerns about potential lost jobs. However, we’re proponents of leaner, more effective government agencies.
Consolidating services could help streamline everything, like more effective administrative procedures. Wake and Mecklenburg counties have already made the move; we think Brunswick County should, too.
Brunswick County’s DSS board has been filled with controversy. Under the direction of former DSS chair and current county commissioner Charles Warren (who voted against the consolidation along with commissioner Marty Cooke), the DSS board did everything from prohibiting audio recordings of meetings, going into improper closed sessions, using an attorney county commissioners had fired, improperly removing a DSS board member from a meeting and tossing a reporter out, too.
County commissioners made the right decision when they finally forced Warren off the board, but it likely came too late. The public’s trust in this board has been damaged and quite possibly cannot be repaired.
Establishing a new board is the right thing to do. Commissioners can draw on the experience and expertise of the current health board and outline all the things not to do from the DSS board. From there, a more solid foundation can be forged for social service agencies that directly impact quality of life here in Brunswick County.
The next step in this measure is a public hearing with county commissioners at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17. Take the time to let your commissioners know what you think. Encourage them to dissolve the DSS board and start anew.
You can write, fax or e-mail commissioners at: P.O. Box 249, Bolivia, NC 28422; fax: 253-2004; call: 253-2017 or 800-442-7033; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.