While politics is definitely not for everyone, when concerned citizens step up and invest in making the community better, it is to the benegit of the community. For outgoing Cumberland County Commissioner Chairman of the Board Jimmy Keefe, serving comes naturally.
“For years I was on the city council. There was a lot happening on Ramsey Street (where I grew up) at the time and I wanted to help be a part of the planning that went on,” said Keefe. “I found that public service is a good fit for me. A natural progression after the city was to move to county level. It is a good board to work with; we were able to come together and work as a group to get positive changes going. It was a good, busy year.”
Keefe listed some of the highlights of the past year including the Mental Health merger with The Alliance Health Care of Durham. The state legislature directed counties to become a part of a Managed Care Organization instead of at individual county levels. After much research and negotiation, Cumberland County merged with Alliance Health Care along with Wake, Durham and Johnston counties. This is one of the largest and most professionally run MCOs in the state. Since the merger, Cumberland County has received a higher level of service, oversight and savings. Cumberland County Commissioner Kenneth Edge serves as a member on The Alliance board.
In conjunction with the merger, the board of commissioners instituted a First Crisis Intervention Team drop-off center. This allows specially trained law enforcement and EMS personnel to deliver non-violent mental-health patients to this center for treatment instead of the previous alternative of the detention center or the emergency room. Not only will this save money, it gets these citizens the assistance they require.
The Crown Coliseum Board and the commissioners took a bold step in initiating a shift to a private-management company to manage the operations and promotion of The Crown Coliseum. For many years, the Crown Coliseum’s expenses were exceeding its income. The board of commissioners worked with the Crown Board to move forward with a smooth transition. All indications are that the level of service, promotion and the events at the Crown Coliseum are enhanced by the move.
The Detention Center is near completion and should be open in the next 30 days. Each level of government has a responsibility to make a commitment to solving the crime issue in the community. The current detention center is not adequate and constantly over capacity. The board of commissioners made a financial commitment to build the expanded detention center to help make the community a safer place.
Last year, the county suffered greatly from the financial storm of sequestration and the shutdown of federal government programs on which so many county citizens rely. Early preparation for this crisis, enabled the county to continue services to clients without any delay during the shutdown.
The board of commissioners and all nine of the municipalities were able to agree on a sales-tax distribution formula for the next 10 years; allowing the county and each of the municipalities to plan long-term.
The county opened the new Veterans Services Office, which gives veterans a place to get services with ample parking and more accessibility for disabled vets.
Hiring new County Finance Officer, Melissa Cardinali, and a new assistant County Manager, Quinton McPhatter, added stability to the management staff.
For the first time in its history, the county now has a countywide animal control ordinance that applies to the municipalities and the unincorporated areas. According to Keefe, the Animal Control Office and its leadership have done an incredible job at increasing the adoption rate and reducing euthanasia of animals in Cumberland County.
Most importantly,while many N.C. counties reduced their funding to the local schools systems, Cumberland County was able to fund the school system at its previous budget without any loss in revenue.
Photo: Outgoing Cumberland County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jimmy Keefe.