MOUNTAIN PARK — Surry County has been tracking down cases of public-assistance fraud and has discovered more than $14,000 in bad claims.
At Monday’s meeting of the county Board of Commissioners, Kristy Preston, director of the Department of Social Services, gave a lengthy update on her team, which includes folks in adult social work, child protective services, child support monies, foster care, food and nutrition, Medicaid and voter registration.
At one point Preston talked about investigating potential abuse of public funds, and one of the commissioners mentioned the telephone line.
At the start of the year, the Department of Social Services announced a new local hotline that allows people to anonymously report instances of public-assistance fraud.
The hotline number, (336) 401-8705, is directed to a voicemail system that will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing callers to report information, according to Ann Slate, program integrity supervisor for Department of Social Services (DSS).
Preston noted that the phone line is still new so people are still learning about it. However, through all tips and investigations, the county had accumulated $14,000 in fraudulent claims that the county will seek to recoup.
Part of that repayment plan is garnishing tax refunds, she said, so when she comes back later with March and April statements, there should be a boost from collected refunds.
Part of that recovered money will come directly back to Surry County, about $3,500, she told the board.
In other stats, Preston’s February report showed 544 children enrolled in a Child Care Subsidy program, with 223 counted on a waiting list. The total expenditures for the month were $181,852.
Child Support showed 2,604 children being served with $270,233 collected.
Foster Care showed four children entering care and four discharged from care, keeping the total count at 77 kids. Case workers made a home visit to 96 percent of the children in the month of February.
Medicaid showed 16,639 people receiving service last month, up from 16,511 in January.
• During the open forum segment of the meeting, one county resident came forward to speak about the school safety issue that the commissioners discussed at their budget retreat last month.
Billy Cave said he has heard of other school districts establishing a police satellite office on campus. When an officer isn’t on patrol, he or she could be handling paperwork from a desk at an elementary school, providing a part-time presence without the hiring of more officers.
This type of thing has been done before locally. Many years ago, the Mount Airy Police Department set up a satellite office off Newsome Street in the public housing development.
The commissioners said they would take that idea under advisement as they consider ways to keep kids safer.
• The county board recognized a dozen students from Surry County Schools for taking part in new internships this year.
Crystal Folger-Hawks helped pair up kids from the three county high schools with local businesses under a program called the Next Generation Career Academy.
Two of the students were named as working with Smith-Rowe. Mount Airy Mayor David Rowe was in attendance at the meeting, and said with a smile that the company had put the two boys hard to work.
Folger-Hawks said the internships have only been running for two months, but already some of the students have received job offers because the companies want to keep them around once the paid internships end.
• As the commissioners were meeting at Mountain Park, Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent, gave the board and audience a brief rundown of what work is planned for the elementary school next year.
The meeting was held in the media center, which is 71 years old and is experiencing a lot of issues with heating and plumbing, said Reeves.
The plan is to build a new structure that can have a media center as well as enough classrooms to get rid of the five mobile homes that the school must rent to handle the space requirements.
Reeves said another building was completed in 1954 and needs some heavy renovations.
The work won’t begin until April or May of next year, he said. In the meantime, the school district has to finalize plans with the architect and devise a system to minimize problems for students with work taking place during the in-session school year, not just summer months.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.