In recent years, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners has met for a multi-day planning session in February for a “state of the county”- type assessment, receiving reports from departments across the county as a prelude to the budget season. This year is no different.
The 2016 session will take place over two days this week, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, Feb. 18, extending all day on the former. The schedule will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, noon to late afternoon on Thursday (miscellaneous and leftover items will extend past 5:15 p.m.).
The planning sessions began several years back during the economic recession and have become a regular occurrence as the county puts a continued emphasis on year-round budget updates.
That is exactly how Tuesday’s session will begin, with a budget update. From there, the Health Department, Information Technology, the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and Mid-Carolina Council of Governments will all offer reports during the morning session. Lunch will take place with Kevin Leonard of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. Discussion with Emergency Management officials and representatives with the Sampson County Landfill will wrap up the agenda.
Commissioner Harry Parker has previously expressed concerns with the items brought into Sampson County to be placed in the landfill, where those items are being transported in from and the impact on the local environment. County manager Ed Causey previously told Parker that would be addressed during planning talks.
Commissioner Clark Wooten asked specifically for a report by new CVB director Sheila Barefoot.
“She is facing a lot of challenges,” Wooten said. He asked that she be allowed to give an action plan for the county. “I know we don’t oversee that board directly … but she is facing a lot of challenges and if there’s a way we can help her, I would certainly like that.”
On Thursday, the board will reconvene at noon with a lunch and discussion on general budget strategies that will include and follow-up actions from Tuesday’s session.
The beginning of Thursday’s meeting will be very school-centric, with representatives of Sampson Community College, Clinton City Schools and Sampson County Schools all giving presentations.
“We’re trying to make this an efficient process,” Causey said. “We normally give the schools — school systems and the community college — an opportunity to come in and talk about the challenges they are facing, which tends to be a good things. It gives them a chance to have a dialogue.”
The Department of Social Services will also be a part of Thursday’s agenda, with the Sheriff’s Office, Planning and Zoning and Public Works wrapping up the session. Planning and Zoning, headed by director Mary Rose, will specifically address solar farms. Those farms are becoming more prevalent across the county.
While giving status and updates has been at the heart of the meetings, looking for areas where potential cuts can be made to ease the hardships of budget deliberations has always been another goal of the annual planning endeavors.
Commissioner Albert Kirby recently lauded Causey, staff and department heads for their work in making cuts that have paved the way in recent months for the implementation of a massive employee pay plan.
“I want to commend you for what you’re doing,” Kirby said. “I am impressed.”
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