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S C U T T L E B U T T

by Keith Barber

S C U T T L E B U T T Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Keith T. Barber

Forsyth County slashes budget by $6.9 million

Forsyth County has made $6.9 million in budget cuts or deferments due in large part to the drastic reduction in sales tax revenues collected in 2008, said Joe Bartel, the county’s director of budget and management. Nearly every county department is going to feel the sting, Bartel said. The contraction of funds will serve to more money into the county’s reserves. Some of those monies could be released once the economic picture brightens. Some of the big-ticket items removed from the county’s budget include replacement items such as computers, vehicles and library books. The county is also taking $1 million from its Medicaid reimbursements and placing them in reserve. The general services department will take the heaviest hit — a cut of $1.9 million. The Forsyth’s County Sheriff’s Office will endure a $700,000 budget cut; the county’s information technology department will be cut by $500,000 and the county libraries and Forsyth Tech will see their budgets slashed by $400,000. The county has also given the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools a target number for cutting its budget. Negotiations are ongoing. Despite the drastic budget cuts, the county’s finances remain “healthy,” Bartel said.

Dental clinic lease in limbo

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said the dispute between the county and Baptist Hospital over the county’s operation of the dental clinic that serves Medicaid eligible adults will not be settled by the time the lease expires at the end of this month. County commissioners tabled a hospital proposal that would increase the annual rent from $1 to $61,024 during the commissioners’ regular meeting Dec. 15. Commissioner Walter Marshall said he believes the exorbitant rent increase is politically motivated. “This is a bad reflection on the hospital when it comes to taking care of the people in that Zip code,” Marshall said, referring to the east Winston-Salem neighborhood the clinic serves. There is a clause in the current lease that provides for a month-to-month arrangement beginning Jan. 1, and the county has engaged in preliminary discussions with Baptist Hospital vice president Robert Parker, Watts said. However, the county must first do its homework regarding the clinic’s financial viability before starting negotiations. “Is it going to pay for itself? In this economy, lots of things are changing so we have to monitor closely how it’s doing financially,” he said.

Williams a no-show at W-S council inquiry

Winston-Salem City Council instructed city attorney Angela Carmon to seek court action to compel former police detective Donald R. Williams to testify about police procedure in his investigation of the 1995 Jill Marker-Silk Plant Forest assault case after Williams failed to appear at a special council meeting Dec. 17. The city council subpoenaed Williams to testify about the matter after he refused to cooperate with the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee. Williams was served the subpoena on Nov. 28. Getting a court order to force Williams to testify could be drawn out for several months, Mayor Allen Joines said. “The best case you’d be looking at would be April,” he said. The citizen review committee has two goals: To ensure proper police procedure was followed in the investigation that eventually led to the conviction of Kalvin Michael Smith. If the committee determines proper police procedures were not followed in the case, it is charged with formulating recommendations to correct those procedures in police investigations. Joines emphasized the committee is not looking into the guilt or innocence of Smith, who has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and is currently serving a 28-year sentence.

New shelter provides focal point for W-S initiative

The Bethesda Center for the Homeless’ brand new day shelter, located off Patterson Avenue in Winston-Salem, opened its doors Dec. 4. The shelter will eventually serve as a base of operations for the city’s 10-year plan to fight chronic homelessness, said Chris Henson, the chair of the commission that oversees the plan’s implementation. Henson said the day shelter’s development into a resource center is critical to the 10-year plan achieving its long-range goals of eradicating homelessness. Andrea Kurtz of the Forsyth County United Way said the resource center would offer the city’s homeless access to a variety of social services, job retraining and housing placement all in one convenient location. Currently, the United Way assembles representatives from Forsyth’s federal, state and local agencies at the Goler AME Zion Church once a month as a service to the homeless in Forsyth County. Kurtz said the commission has found transportation to be a significant barrier that prevents the city’s homeless from getting the services they need. “What we’re hoping to do with that shelter is make it more than just a place to get out of the rain,” she said.

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