Jackson board divided over restructuring of departments

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners narrowly passed a resolution that would allow county governments more flexibility in how its human services departments are organized.

Should Senate Bill 433 pass the General Assembly, county boards will have more leeway in how health departments and departments of social services are arranged. Counties could condense redundant services provided by both departments and thereby save money — a resource in short supply in every county.


“(The law) does not by any means require you to make any action at this time, but it does give you the opportunity to make changes,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten.

Mecklenburg and Wake counties are the only two in North Carolina that currently have the authority to consolidate their health and social services departments.

Wooten discussed the legislation with the directors of the Jackson County health department and DSS, and neither raised strong opposition.

“I have talked with both our DSS director and our health department director. I think for the most part neither are opposed,” Wooten said.

Commissioner Joe Cowan, who has served on the county health board previously, voted against the resolution, saying that he did not believe the county needed more control over the departments.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Cowan said. “I am not sure the commissioners need to take on health services and social services.”

Fellow Democrat Mark Jones also voted against the resolution. The board’s two Republicans and one Independent pushed the resolution through, however, with a majority vote.

Haywood County’s Board of Commissioners has also voiced its support for the bill. The county has already trimmed costs by moving both departments under the same roof. However, Chairman Mark Swanger said that the county could realize more savings if Senate Bill 433 passes.

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