Commissioners decide against changing DSS oversight

James HowellStaff

February 20, 2013

The proposal to reorganize the Department of Social Services and place its operation under the supervision of the county manager (rather than remaining under a Social Services Board) failed in a 1-4 vote during Monday’s meeting of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Judy Porter Poe voted for the change in oversight for the department.

During the planning session before the regular meeting, Poe asked her fellow commissioners for a consensus to postpone the vote until Dr. Mitchell attended a social services seminar held on March 8.

“I have mixed feelings about that,” responded Commissioner Gary Roark. “I don’t want to undercut Donna (Weaver, the director of Ashe County’s Department of Social Services).”

“So far, I am against the county taking it over. We don’t need to be involved,” said Roark.

It was later determined to keep this item on the agenda when the board met for its regular meeting.

The possibility to restructuring the DSS under county management was first proposed by Poe during the Jan. 7, planning meeting for the Ashe County BOC.

“DSS has more than a $50 million budget, and as commissioners, we know almost nothing about it,” said Poe during the Jan. 7, meeting.

DSS Director Donna Weaver later appeared before the county’s commissioners on Monday, Feb. 4, to address those comments. Weaver said she has done everything in her power to make her department transparent.

“On April 4, 2011, I spent two and a half hours explaining my budget from top to bottom,” said Weaver while holding an armful of reference material about the department, its operations and its finances.

After the Feb. 4 meeting, Weaver explained how the DSS operates in greater detail.

Each one of the over 30 programs offered by DSS has different matching rates from federal, state, and county governments. For example, the Special Assistance Program, which provides monies for those eligible for rest home-level care, receives a 50/50 match between state and county funding.

During Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Larry Rhodes said restructuring DSS would place a heavier burden on County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell and more responsibility on the BOC.