1-21-2023 – Duncan presents ‘State of the County’ to Rotary Club

Posted on: January 23rd, 2023 by admin No Comments


January 21 2023




Jan 20, 2023


LENOIR — During the Rotary Club of Lenoir’s weekly meeting on Friday, Jan. 20, County Manager Donald Duncan addressed the club regarding recent changes and developments that have been or will be enacted in Caldwell County.


Rotary Club of Lenoir’s president Stephen Starnes introduced Duncan to the group of Rotarians.


“Donald Duncan has a long history of service to our community,” said Starnes.


Duncan previously served as town manager for the town of Troutman, and he served for 15 years as the city manager for the city of Conover. He received his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Appalachian State University. He is also a former Rotarian and twice president for the Rotary Club of Newton-Conover.


“We’ve had so many things happen this year in Caldwell County,” Duncan began. “A lot of it you didn’t get to see but some of it you will never see because it’s all behind the scenes.”


In the field of IT, the county’s systems used to be incredibly old and outdated. Duncan said that the county has now “completely revamped” the IT department in order to properly maintain and secure the private data of county residents.


The Animal Control department has also been reworked to better serve the community. Animal Control has been taken out of the Health Department and renamed Animal Care Enforcement. The new facility is set to open today, Saturday, Jan. 1, at 180 Government Way.


“Animal Control was considered a laughing stock,” Duncan said. “Thanks to our General Assembly, they gave us a $3.5 million grant, and the county borrowed a little additional money, as well, to help build the fantastic facility.”


Duncan went on to talk about environmental health in Caldwell County. He said the second biggest complaint he receives is about septic tanks.


“Septic tanks are an issue because we don’t have sewer everywhere,” he said. “We have septic tank applications that went back more than a year, and the average wait time was more than six months. The wait time today is less than two weeks … We’re very proud that we were able to get that list down, it took a lot of work. We essentially redid the Environmental Health department and now people are cross-trained in different disciplines.”


Duncan said the real shortage in law enforcement right now is not in front-line officers but detention officers. The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners along with Sheriff Alan Jones are working to increase the pay rates and change the career trajectory so it is not a “dead-end job” with no room for advancement.


“Detention officers are your biggest concern now in law enforcement,” said Duncan. “There’s a 30% vacancy rate in detention officers across the country. North Carolina is no exception, and our county is no exception … we can create a position for them to grow, and they can become part of a system that gives them long-term care. The jails are not emptying, they’re only filling up.”


The commissioners negotiated with the General Assembly and received a large grant to be used to design and build a new emergency operations center.


“The week of Christmas, we had 3,900 calls for service,” said Duncan. “One dispatcher in a 14-hour shift answered 900 calls. That’s a call, response, and dispatch every 90 seconds for that person. It’s incredible, we can’t handle that volume … Heart attack calls are through the roof, stroke calls are through the roof. In 2021, just for ambulance, there were 23,000 calls and ambulance runs. We can’t keep it up.”


The Caldwell County Courthouse is scheduled for renovations to modernize the building. Duncan said the project will be the most expensive undertaking the county has ever seen.


“A modern courthouse is an extremely secure zone. Your body is screened, you walk through metal detectors, and every inch you take is on camera,” he said. “Underneath is a fully functioning prison, and we have to move those prisoners through that building securely and make sure they don’t interact with someone who’s just there to handle their grandmother’s estate. It’s going to take years for us to decide what to do, and costs are not going down.”


Duncan next talked about the RESTART program, which aims to assist residents suffering from opioid addiction.


“We have an unusually high rate of opioid-addicted patients,” he said. “We’re using our opioid [settlement] funds to expand RESTART. We went from one staffer to having eight or nine, people who are solely focused on getting people help.”


“Just under 300 people died of COVID-related illness in Caldwell County. Almost 900 people died of opioid addictions,” he added.


The Board of Commissioners continues to fight to keep the county streets and rivers clean and free of trash and debris. The Clean Sweep day brings county residents together to pull trash out of the rivers in October, and on Litter Sweep Day, residents collect litter along the roadways in April. Additionally, last year the county introduced Hazmat Day, which allows residents to drop off waste that is not intended for landfill, such as batteries and other electronics. Duncan said they plan to continue and even expand Hazmat Day in 2023.


“It’s been a busy 13 months,” said Duncan. “I enjoy getting up every morning and coming to work here. Every time I open a drawer, it is a bag of snakes because so much was left undone or partially done. My goal is to get you into this century, and I’ll do the best I can with the resources that we have. You have a very aggressive group of commissioners right now. They’re trying to get the county to be the best county it can be. Thank them for what they do. They’re a good team.”

Leave a Reply

©2011-2014 Economic Development Commission of Caldwell County • Site Mapinfo@caldwelledc.orgWebsite by Market Force