ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Board of Commissioners met on Dec. 4 for its annual reorganizational meeting where a new chairman and vice chairman were chosen for the 2024 calendar year.
The board also established new committee assignments for next year.
Replacing a role held this year by Commissioner Scott Efird, Commissioner Bill Lawhon was elected as the board’s new chairman — a position he held previously in 2021 — while Commissioner Mike Barbee retained his role as vice chairman.
Lawhon and Barbee each received a nomination for chairman, leading to an individual voting process for each where they voted for themselves.
Lawhon came out on top via a 4-3 vote with support from Commissioners Trent Hatley, Peter Asciutto and Efird. Barbee received support from Commissioners Patty Crump and Brandon King.
Barbee and Efird each received a nomination for the vice chairman vote, leading to another 4-3 tally for the position. Crump, King, Barbee and Efird voted for Barbee; Hatley, Lawhon and Asciutto voted for Efird.
For board and committee assignments, Lawhon was named to the Airport Authority and Centralina Council of Governments while Barbee was added to the Stanly Water and Sewer Authority.
Efird was assigned to the Economic Development Commission, Rural Planning Organization, and Partners Mental Health Board. Asciutto was named to the Economic Development Commission and Rural Planning Organization.
Crump joined the Centralina Council of Governments while Hatley joined the Airport Authority, Stanly Water and Sewer Authority, and Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. Lastly, King was added to the Human Services Board and Fire District Commission.
These board and committee assignments received unanimous support from the commissioners.
Over two-thirds of the way into the meeting with a revamped board, Stanly County Manager Andy Lucas presented the board with multiple opioid settlement funding appropriation resolutions.
The first of the two was a unanimous vote to allocate $69,386 to the county’s EMS community paramedic division from January 1, 2024 to June 30, 2024; the division had originally requested an allocation of $110,188.50 in funding.
The second was a vote pertaining to Uwharrie Harm Reduction Initiative (UHRI).
Based at an office inside Grace Place at 132 Church Street in Albemarle, UHRI is a harm-reduction nonprofit organization that was founded under the leadership of Open Hands of North Carolina, a faith-based organization in Lexington.
The UHRI has assisted with peer support and other opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery support services for the past four years.
Seeking an allocation of $39,527.50, between Jan. 1, 2024 and June 30, 2024 to continue its current peer support efforts and add an additional part-time peer support specialist, Open Hands requested the funding from the county with support from members of the county’s Health and Human Services Board, Department of Social Services, and EMS staff.
The commissioners voted 7-0 to allocate $31,395 to Open Hands, despite some vocal reservations from King and Crump about UHRI’s needle-exchange program.
North Carolina Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) was in attendance at the meeting and addressed the board following their opioid funding allocations, praising the work done by Open Hands executive director Bob Harmon and his staff at Open Hands and UHRI.
“Bob’s people do a fantastic job there,” the state representative said. “They’re pretty much the poster child for the state doing it the right way. And let me tell you, treating HIV and treating hepatitis is a very expensive process. All those diseases we can prevent. The issue here is not as much drug abuse as it is mental illness.”
Sasser continued: “Thank you for all you’re doing and I’m glad you made the point that this is all opioid settlement money from drug companies, drugstores, distributors and all that kind of stuff. It’s not North Carolina taxpayer money and it’s not Stanly County taxpayer money.”
The commissioners are set to hold their next regular meeting on Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. inside the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly County Commons.