January 26, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

I attended the January 26, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

Commissioners Skelton and Gohagan were present.

The meeting was held in the conference room of the Commission Building. Rhonda Hooker and I were the only people present besides the Camden County employees who normally attend.

The first agenda item was the Juvenile Justice Center Bid Opening.

There were two bids to replace a fire panel. One bid was from Johnson Control for $29,746. The other bid was from All-Com Digital for $8,003.

The representative from the Juvenile Justice Center asked for the item to be tabled. The commissioners were concerned that there was such a wide disparity between the two bids. Commissioner Skelton asked if they could get more clarification regarding the bids before they made a decision.

The Commission voted unanimously to table this bid.

The second agenda item was the Public Defender Lease.

Commissioner Skelton explained that the lease is a shared agreement between the counties and the Public Defender. The money from the Public Defender lease is split between the counties in the court circuit based on population.

The lease was approved unanimously.

The third and fourth agenda items were Surplus Property -HH and Amphitheater Parking Lot Deed.

Camden County owns a piece of property across from Lafata’s Grocery Mart on Horseshoe Bend.

Commissioner Skelton said it is the Commission’s intent to survey these properties, get legal descriptions for them, and put them up for sale.

The Commission voted unanimously to put out a Request For Bid for a survey and appraisal of the parking lot. They voted unanimously to put out a Request For Bid for an appraisal of the Horseshoe Bend property.

Rhonda Hooker requested to speak to the Commission and she was on the agenda as the fifth item.

She is a family and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. She is also the President of the Lake Area Citizen’s Advisory Board and the treatment court coordinator. Her organization (LACAB) offers a wide spectrum of programs and services in support of the community and the local parole and probation offices. They have always been self-sustaining, but they are hoping to get some funding through new grants and ARPA money in the future.

When Hooker read that Camden County was going to be getting money from an opioid settlement, she spoke with Greg Hasty about it. At the time, Hasty was disappointed in the amount of money Camden County was going to receive. Hooker told him that she could talk to people she knew at the state level in an effort to lobby for an increase in the amount of settlement money, but she would in return expect to have “a seat at the table” and receive some funding when Camden County received the settlement.

She felt that her efforts on behalf of Camden County increased the percentage of the settlement received by the county.

(Ultimately, Camden County will receive $164,000 annually for 18 years.)

She reiterated that was promised a “seat at the table” by both County Auditor Jimmy Laughlin and Commissioner Hasty. Instead, her organization received no portion of the settlement money. This was obviously very disappointing.

LACAB plans to seek government grants and ARPA funding to sustain itself, but there will be a delay of approximately six months before those efforts can bear fruit.

Commissioner Skelton explained that the previous Commission had given the opioid settlement money to the treatment courts. He asked Hooker how much ARPA money she would need to keep LACAB funded until the the grant money came in. She responded that LACAB would need $10,000-$15,000 per month. The money would be used to meet staffing needs.

Commissioner Skelton stated that he is not in favor of giving government money to non-profit organizations. In his opinion, it puts the government in the role of picking winners and losers. However, he did feel that since LACAB was falsely promised that they would receive funding, he was inclined to allocate them some ARPA money.

The Commission voted unanimously to earmark $50,000 in ARPA money for Lake Area Counseling & Behavioral Health.

And that was that.

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