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Commissioners to consider funding for organization that works to prevent overdoses, stop opioid abuse

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday will hear a request from the Health Department for more than $300,000 in funding to support the Post Overdose Response Team.

Known as PORT, the organization was started in 2019 to address substance abuse and the opioid epidemic in Rowan County by providing resources and care. Over the previous two years, PORT has provided 191 individuals who have experienced abuse disorder or the impacts of it with some type of resource, including counseling, housing, food, support and healthcare referrals. PORT has also distributed 567 doses of Narcan, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

PORT is working to solve a problem that is becoming increasingly common in North Carolina. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Rowan County has averaged 57 opioid overdoses per month compared to the 25.3 overdoses per month that it averaged from July 2019 to February 2020. Commissioner Judy Klusman said it would be “critical” to make sure that PORT is well funded to deal with the increasing number of opioid overdoses.

“Substance abuse has gone up another 50% since COVID started and that’s why we are very thankful that we can fund the PORT team through the Medicaid reimbursement settlement,” Commissioner Judy Klusman said.

For the previous two years, PORT has relied on a $285,326 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. With that grant scheduled to run out at the end of December, the organization will need a new funding source to continue operating. Public Health Director Nina Oliver will ask commissioners for $311,528.41 to be allocated from the Health Department Medicaid Cost Settlement fund to continue the PORT program. There is currently $2,1 million in the settlement fund.

Other business on the meeting agenda includes:

• A public hearing and a summary presentation will be held regarding the Rowan Economic Development Commissions incentive request for “Project Hero.” The company behind “Project Hero” is a current Rowan County employer that is considering a substantial expansion. If Rowan County is chosen, the expansion project would create 30 jobs over the next four years and would include a $1.55 million investment for building improvements and equipment. Although the $1.55 million investment doesn’t technically qualify for a level one grant under the county’s current incentive policy, the EDC is still requesting a level one grant for the company. A level one grant would have the county return 75% of the company’s paid taxes for a five-year period.

• Commissioners will consider approval of a task order that will authorize McGill Associates to provide services for the construction of the new dog adoption facility at the county’s animal shelter. McGill will be paid $2,800 to review plans for the new center submitted by the site designer and to assist with permitting of the water and sewer services to the dog adoption facility.

• The Board of Commissioners will consider approval of the Board of Elections’ 2020 CARES Act Supplemental Fund Grant and budget amendments. The grant provides additional funding to the Board of Elections for COVID-19 related expenses on election day as well as funding for supplemental pay for Election Day poll workers. Each of the 375 poll workers who worked on Nov. 3 will receive $100 in supplemental pay, totaling $37,500. The Board of Elections will receive $10,000 for expenditures incurred to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic during the election cycle.

• Commissioners will consider approving an alternate location for Piedmont Skydiving’s new building. The owner of Piedmont Skydiving has requested the approval of a secondary or backup location that will be on the center of an access road at the airport. There will be no changes in color, size or material from the original building plan. If the commissioners approve, Piedmont Skydiving will decide which location is the best option once the terrain is evaluated by installers.

• Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams will present the commissioners with updates pertaining to the town.

• Rowan County Environmental Health Supervisor Adrian Pruett will deliver a presentation to request the commissioners to approve purchasing $72,350 worth of GPS/GIS hardware and software for the department. The GPS/GIS devices and software will help the county’s site and soil inspectors reduce the time it takes to complete an inspection by at least one hour. Currently, site and soil inspectors have to rely on hand written notes and maps.

• A public hearing and summary presentation will be held to consider a request from Daniel Almazan for the rezoning of his clients’ property at the corner of Briggs Road and Mooresville Road from rural residential to commercial, businesses and industrial.

• Following a request from commissioners at their last regularly scheduled meeting, Oliver will present the board with a report on the average time for on-site soil and septic inspections. Currently, the waiting period is four weeks and four days.

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