A bill passed in the North Carolina General Assembly last summer allowing county commissioners more control over public health may find its way to New Hanover County. House Bill 438 gives the board of commissioners the ability to absorb public agencies such as the local health and social services boards.
New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet is moving forward with plans to investigate whether it’s feasible for the county to integrate House Bill 438. Several other counties have already adopted the legislation, including Brunswick County. It recently dissolved its board of health and gave that authority to the board of commissioners.
But New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said that it’s unlikely the board of health or social services board will disappear. He said one favorable option would be to have health and social services directors report directly to the county manager, as opposed to their respective boards.
“When you look at the employees that work at DSS and the health department, they’re under the State Personnel Act as opposed to being under the county system, but it’s the county taxpayer dollars are actually paying their salaries. And it’s my opinion if we’re paying salaries of those individuals, they need to be accountable to the county’s system as well as opposed to the state system.”
Several public health officials oppose the measure, saying it eliminates certain employee protections and affects the quality and expertise of new hires. Barfield says there are several steps prior to making any changes, including public hearings. He says any changes could be implemented before the end of the fiscal year, which ends in June.