Cumberland County Commissioners Tackle Sewer Project Funding and 2024 Budget

At the recent Cumberland County Board of Commissioners meeting, a substantial focus was placed on the downtown CH sewer project and the presentation of the 2024 budget. The sewer project, initially estimated at $15 million, witnessed a cost increase to $33 million due to external factors. Despite the rise in costs, the project has secured 77% in grant funding, with a notable contribution of a $15 million grant from the USDA. The project is deemed critical for the community, especially for the local shellfish industry and residents who will benefit from the septic system decommissioning and hookup services. Grants and low-interest loans are being provided to homeowners, particularly aiding those aged 62 and above and below a specified income threshold. The importance of the project was emphasized, with ongoing efforts to secure additional funding through various partnerships and discussions with the governor’s office.

In parallel, the Board’s Chief Financial Officer presented the 2024 budget, detailing the appropriations, anticipated revenues, and notable changes from the previous year. The CFO underscored the reductions in department budgets due to vacant positions and attrition, as well as the removal of vehicle and IT purchases from operating budgets. Increased allocations for juvenile housing agreements and state-mandated psychiatric hospital services were also highlighted. The presentation served to increase transparency, with the entire budget presentation made available on the finance department website for public review.

The meeting also delved into health insurance costs, specifically addressing the increase in the Medicare Advantage plan by approximately 4% and a 7.36% hike in workers’ compensation. A trust fund was set up to cover premiums for all benefits, with a total fringe benefits increase estimated at around 7.4%. The board introduced an ordinance for capital improvement, allocating funds for various projects, including technology updates, security equipment, and a solar feasibility study.

Public comments brought up concerns about the allocation of funds from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, with members of the community questioning the prioritization of certain projects over compensating essential workers.

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The Board tackled resolutions to exceed the 2% budget cap for the County Sheriff’s Office and the County Prosecutor’s Office for the 2024 budget. Legal implications of a resolution concerning the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions were debated, highlighting the need for a case-by-case approach for background checks.

Several resolutions were discussed, including change orders for the Rowan Medicine project, reappointments to the tourism advisory council, and the declaration of March 2024 as Red Cross Month. Furthermore, the Board addressed resolutions involving contracts for public works, emergency management, and the affirmation of emergencies at the County Department of Corrections.

A debate ensued over the assessment for the Mid-County Park’s proposed 5.2-mile trail system, with considerations for Green Acres grant funding requirements. The possibility of conducting the assessment in-house was discussed, but it was determined that specific expertise and environmental considerations necessitated external assessment.

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The Board also applauded the acceptance of a grant for the construction of a new facility, anticipated to create opportunities for professionals and youth programs.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

County Administrator:
Harold U. Johnson
County Council Officials:
Director Joseph Sileo (Director), Antonio Romero, Douglas Albrecht, Victoria Groetsch-Lods, Art Marchand, Jim Sauro, Sandra Taylor

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