After considering the issue for several months, the county commissioners voted 4-1 Monday to abolish the Stokes County Board of Health and the Stokes County Social Services Board. The county commissioners will now assume the responsibilities of those boards.
The county will set up an 11-member Human Services Advisory Committee that will give recommendations to the county commissioners.
Commissioner Jimmy Walker strongly opposed the move, saying, “What is the reason for doing this?”
But the other commissioners did not list any specific complaints about the health or DSS boards. Last year a new state law gave counties the freedom to choose whether to keep, consolidate or dissolve their current health and social services boards, and the commissioners have discussed their options at several meetings since then.
Commissioner Ronda Jones said, “I’d like to give it a try … It could be better … For me it’s certainly not a power play. It’s to be more efficient.”
Commissioner Leon Inman said it was important to note that all employees in the departments would remain under the protection of the State Personnel Act.
He also stated, “It’s not about our directors, because we have two great directors here.”
Once the board abolished the health and DSS boards, the commissioners voted to keep Scott Lenhart and Kristy Preston as the directors of the health and social service departments. The health and DSS boards were previously in charge of overseeing those directors.
The health and DSS departments will still be led by the same directors, but now the county commissioners will have more decision-making power over those departments instead of the former boards.
The new human services committee will make recommendations to the county and has prescribed positions, most of which are health related positions. The three at-large positions on the board will be filled by individuals with a background in social services.
“What in the world?” exclaimed Walker in reference to the social services department not having its own advisory board. “There’s just a vacuum. Nothing there.”
Walnut Cove policing
The issue of a law enforcement contract between the county and the town of Walnut Cove has still not been resolved. The county commissioners have moved the item to the action agenda at their June 24 meeting.
Sheriff Mike Marshall and Walnut Cove Town Manager Byron Ellis were on hand at the Stokes County Board of Commissioners’ Monday meeting to answer questions. One question from the commissioners was if the sheriff felt he could provide the level of service the town was requesting. Marshall said he felt comfortable delivering what was specified in the contract for $140,000.
Another question from the commissioners involved who will be responsible for paying for the new radios Walnut Cove ordered if the sheriff’s office were to take over policing responsibilities there. Ellis and Marshall said that item had not been finalized.
The Walnut Cove town commissioners have been discussing the idea of contracting with the Sheriff’s Office instead of having a police department for a few months now, and the board voted last week to formally send the contract to the county for approval. It would then come back to the town for final approval. County Commissioner Leon Inman asked Ellis on Monday if the town commissioners had formally voted to disband the police department, and he replied that they had not at this time.
Commissioner Jimmy Walker made a motion Monday to move the item to the action agenda later in the meeting so the board could go ahead and act on it that day. Commissioner Ronda Jones seconded the motion, but Ernest Lankford, James Booth and Leon Inman voted against it. The commissioners plan to take action on the item on June 24 but hope to get some questions answered before that time. The Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners plans to meet on June 27.
Read more about these topics in Thursday’s edition of The Stokes News.