02/20/09 — County reviews budget needs

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County reviews budget needs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioners were bombarded with needs for personnel, equipment and buildings at their retreat session Thursday at the Goldsboro Country Club.

Commissioners heard from officials from the Health Department, Department of Social Services, Sheriff's Office, Office of Emergency Services and the Economic Development Alliance.

The session resumed today.

They are designed to lay the groundwork for a daylong retreat next month led by Wanda Sykes of the Cooperative Extension Service.

On Thursday, Health Department Director James Roosen's presentation sparked debate among commissioners about the number of children born to unwed mothers.

He said that local doctors are concerned that they are taking on too many health department patients, increasing the doctors' liability and the number of after-hour calls.

Dr. Michael Gooden said there is a need for more teenage pregnancy prevention.

He also asked commissioners to revisit the four-day workweek that closes the Health Department on Fridays. The concern, he said, is that the closing shifts patients to the emergency room or people have to wait until Monday.

Commissioner Jack Best said a program earlier in the week at the Health Department was "scary" in that 45 percent of births in the county are to unwed mothers

"That is unbelievable," he said.

Roosen said the key is reaching children earlier. He added that a shift in public opinion has made having children out of wedlock "more acceptable."

Roosen said there is a need for satellite pregnancy clinics in the southern part of the county in the Mount Olive and Dudley areas.

Roosen described facility needs and said the old hospital where his department is housed is inefficient.

In his report, Roosen reminded commissioners that he has tried for three years to get $500,000 in order to scan medical records. Each year the request has been left out of the budget, he said. Converting the files to digital form would allow for easier access to the records, while freeing up 2,000 square feet of storage space, he said.

Both Roosen and Social Services Director Debbie Jones said they are seeing an increased demand for services -- particularly "first-time" assistance requests. That has put more demands on staff and available space, they noted.

Personnel was also on the mind of Sheriff Carey Winders.

Winders thanked commissioners for the four additional deputies funded in the current budget, even though his original request was for eight.

He reminded commissioners that state law mandates that certain duties, such as serving warrants or standing by at evictions, can be performed only by deputies. He said his office has seen an increase in tax warrants from the state as well.

Winders said the volume of patrol calls continues to increase -- 30,960 in 2008 compared to 28,587 in 2007.

Chief Deputy Ray Smith told commissioners that the county jail continues to be an issue.

Some $75,000 in security improvements alone are needed. The need for a new roof and air conditioning pushes the total to $755,000.

The work needs to be done by December, he said.

Winders said that in the future that the county will need to look at adding a Financial Crimes Unit to his office. The specialized unit is needed because of increases in financial and computer-related crime, he said. The county currently lacks the personnel and equipment, for example, to recover information from a computer. The SBI is so overwhelmed that the county has been told that unless child pornography is involved that the state lacks the time to help.

Winders was asked about the county becoming more involved with immigration issues.

When a person is fingerprinted at the jail the fingerprints are checked against a database that includes illegal aliens. However, he said the county lacks the resources and funding required for a more rigorous program.

It is non-emergency phone calls that Office of Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley asked commissioners to tackle. Gurley said that after-hours non-emergency calls are tying up personnel in the dispatching center. In some cases, they are calling because the office they wanted to call had closed for the day.

Economic Development Alliance President Joanna Helms told commissioners that the county needs a 100,000-foot-square shell building at ParkEast.