Commissioners approve select programs for opioid settlement funds

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Monday, July 10, with decisions on opioid settlement funding and project bids as the main items on the agenda for consideration.

The board was first presented with a final update on the design of the Farm, Food and Family Center from HH Architecture, the firm working on the project.

“With all of the updates that we’ve made, we’re still right around a $29.2 million total budget,” said HH Architecture Project Architect Daniel Jencks. “That’s a touch more than the $28.3 that we currently have secured, but it’s important to note that we are within 3.5% of that number which is well within the comfort zone where we would normally recommend folks to go ahead and bid.

“We’ve worked really hard to pull things out of the scope or to dial back to less expensive items, but unfortunately, we’ve really just kept pace with inflation.”

Following the presentation, the board approved the preceding of bidding for the project.

The board of commissioners also approved $900,000 for several opioid settlement funding applications, although much deliberation took place about which ones to approve and the perceived effectiveness of these programs.

The organizations recommended for $50,000 in funding with an option to renew for two additional years each that were approved were the Randolph County Juvenile Day Reporting Center for early intervention practices, Randolph County Detention Center for Naloxone distribution, Randolph County Detention Center for addiction treatment for incarcerated persons and Randolph County Department of Social Services for recovery support services.

Morse Clinic for evidence-based addiction treatment and Community Hope Alliance for Naloxone distribution also passed, but with dissent from Chairman Darrell Frye and Commissioner Kenny Kidd.

“We’ve heard that it is critical to accept people where they are and to build relationships because what’s part of what’s missing in their addiction is relationships and connections is the opposite of where they are, and we’ve not done a good job of that,” said Commissioner Hope Haywood. “We can criticize the way somebody else is doing this, but we haven’t done it. If we had, we would have had a greater impact.”

The recommended programs that failed to get a majority vote from the commissioners were Community Hope Alliance for syringe service programs and Keaton’s Place for recovery support services.

“This is a pretty conservative, common-sense kind of county, and for the average person that I talk to and even I, having studied this and researched it and going and looking at harm reduction and trying to understand that better, I can’t understand how we can say distributing 192,000 needles last year in Randolph County makes sense for Randolph County,” said Commissioner Kenny Kidd. “I don’t care if the other 99 counties in North Carolina are doing it; Randolph County is different.”

In both cases, Commissioners Allen and Haywood were the dissenting votes from the majority, instead voting to approve the programs.

“In attending the opioid summit, listening to commissioners who have had children who have lost their lives to this… to me, it’s the compassion of it,” Allen said. “If we can save a life or two, to me, it’s worth it. We seem to think that this is a moral failing, but people make bad decisions.”

“I would like to point out too that this is a reimbursement,” Allen added. “So, the funds are not being just given. There is a reimbursement process, and there is also accountability after the first year. It’s not as if we’re giving money to an organization, and we don’t know what happens to it. There is accountability for these funds when they’re expended, and it’s not just giving somebody a blank check.”

The board then approved an aging services bid utilizing Block Grant funding and the 2023-24 classification and pay plan.

The board was then presented with the rebid results for the historic courthouse elevator addition.

“The base bid is now just the elevator addition with four alternates,” said County Engineer Paxtor Arthurs. “Alternate 1 was for a preferred brand of door hardware; this is basically just a formality for specifying a single manufacturer. Alternate 2 is raising the landing at the front steps because of a safety issue when the door swings out over a step. Alternate 3 is to upgrade the guardrails on the north steps and also to enclose the west steps when that handicap lift is removed, and Alternate 4 is to replace the HVAC unit up in the attic.”

The low bid went to H.M. Kern Corporation, as their base bid was $1.9 million, and with the other alternates, came to a total of $2,162,000.

“By rebidding the project, we were able to save over $500,000,” Arthurs said.

However, the commissioners vetoed tabling the decision in order to take more time to research the bidder due to concerns over how much cheaper they were than the other bidders.

Finally, the board approved the bid offer for the Northgate wellness center construction. The bid went to Lomax Construction and will have a total project cost of $349,500.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet August 7.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal