County budget feels growing pains

The Moore County Board of Commissioners’ yearly budget work session on Feb. 24 at the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center reported 97.8% of property taxes have been collected, and the county is in good shape.

The board reported several accomplishments including developing and adopting the FY 2021 budget and donating a cottage to Friend to Friend, a nonprofit organization that “offers help to all persons affected by interpersonal violence.” The county also contributed to the Moore Free and Charitable Clinic, fire departments and a food bank.

All budgets, regardless of which fund, were impacted by the retirement system. An increase of 1.2% was added to the General Fund and made a $400,000 impact.

The board is rebidding now for health insurance even though the current rates and coverage are already competitive. Health insurance is an aid in recruiting new employees.


A lack of staffing leads to overworked employees with lower attention spans, lowers efficiency and can be a liable condition when emergency responders cannot do their jobs by quickly responding.

Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the sheriff’s department needs a telecommunicator due to a 24% increase in calls. “We have a six-minute response time,” Fields said about also needing another deputy to cover the growing West End area.

Courtesy of Moore County.

The Emergency Management Services (EMS) had a 5.75% increase in calls, reported employees with burnout and requested a Public Safety Communication Specialist. “We need a Public Safety Logistics Specialist,” Chief Grant Hudson said about a second needed employee to cross-train for disasters and manage purchases and inventory control.

EMS Director Dr. Ronald Milewski retires on March 30 which will require a replacement.

The county fire departments demonstrated underserved areas with a color-coded presentation during the meeting. Without manpower on duty, rural fire departments would not have sufficient response times. For example, when volunteers leave their homes, they go to the fire department to wait for the other volunteers to leave as a unit for emergency response. The response time is then significantly compromised.

The planning department also reported an understaffing problem with a growing population. “We need some help,” Debra Ensminger, director of planning said. “We need another full-time planner.”

The planning department wants to reclass existing positions to upper levels to retain employees.

“With COVID, thought it would slow down, but it accelerated,” County Manager Wayne Vest said about development, new single homes construction and remodeling.

Fire Departments

There are 15 fire departments in Moore County with a population of around 100,000. Rural areas are underserved.

The area of Youngs Road in Vass and Southern Pines was noted as underserved, and the fire district plans to start funding for a fire station in the area in summer 2021.

Moore County Commissioners Chairman Frank Quis and Catherine Graham enjoying the fire hydrant gifts from the fire district.

For Station X (The unnamed station in the works) in the High Falls, Robbins and Carthage area to serve a population of approximately 3,300, the Moore County fire district has $36,451 in escrow. The district is searching for land near or with utilities, in near proximity to other stations and with consideration for future development in the area. Station X is planned for Mt. Carmel Road.

With an operational performance mission within four minutes, and not to be exceed 12 minutes, the county reported it met its mission 80% of the time.

Fire department funding comes from the tax fund, and the district wants a .105 fire tax rate.

Sheriff’s Department

The sheriff’s department will need a canine deputy to work with a trained canine. An anonymous woman offered to purchase a $10,000 trained narcotics and tracking canine for the department. Currently, the department relies on other agencies’ canines.

“We were able to acquire a Tahoe from the narcotics division, and have a cage, air system and kennel,” Fields said. “We can use drug funds and purchase another vehicle when dog comes.”

The trained canine will help create revenue from drug seizures to purchase equipment and training for personnel.

Fields also said there are increased expenses for updating radio systems for compliancy, for GrayKey software to breakdown electronics’ encryption to collect evidence for bills of indictment, especially in crimes against children. The cost of ammunition increased 15%.

The medical examiner’s budget was exhausted and transports for mental patients increased from 3,000 to 5,000.

Captain Flint said the detention center’s health care expenses are up 27%.

Emergency Management Services

EMS has been updating ambulances for the past five years and saved over $460,000. But Chief Grant Hunsucker said they need to update their fleet management program with a medium Dodge chassis diesel.

All trucks need power-stretchers to reduce personnel’s back injuries, and they need key-pin entry and audit trail systems for narcotics.

CARES funding purchased one new ambulance.

Sandhills Community College

The county priced $20 million General Obligation Community College Bonds to fund the nursing education facility.

The county also identified potential funding sources for capital projects, and over $373,000 of the deficit has been eliminated.

Feature photo: Moore County first responders prepare for a presentation at commissioners budget meeting.

~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers.

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