Harrison health department finances ailing

CADIZ – Financial problems continue for the Harrison County Health Department, and members of the board appeared before county commissioners again on Wednesday requesting additional funds.

In March, the commissioners approved a $20,000 advance to help the county health department hire a full-time sanitarian which was preceded by another loan to the department for $20,000 to help with operations.

This time, Andy Atkins presented a report to the board which predicted a shortfall of $39,073 for fiscal year 2014.

Placing blame for the deficit on state mandates which have been added without additional funding and “unforeseen expenses,” the health department has also cited several grants which, due to cuts in federal and state budgets, are no longer available.

“We have a levy on the ballot in November, which if passed will provide adequate funding for our operations,” said Chuck Fisher, administrator at the health department. “We are requesting these additional funds because in addition to the cost increases, we have experienced our traditional funding sources going down this year.”

Fisher explained that the county charges fees for birth and death certificates, licenses and many other environmental services but added that permits for well and septic have dropped this year.

“The department is proud of the diverse service we provide to our community, and protecting the health and well being of individuals and the community is our preeminent responsibility,” Fisher said. “I do not believe people realize how many services we provide.”

“Residents call us to report a hazard or nuisance,” Fisher explained. “But they might not know that we also offer many other services -animal services, healthcare, disease reporting and prevention – in addition to vital records and licensing.”

Commissioner Don Bethel stated that he thought that an education campaign to inform voters of the many services provided by the health department would be beneficial to promote the levy.

“The health department is of critical importance,” Bethel said. “We need to find a way to make the public aware of the importance of what you do, especially now with the oil and gas boom in the county.”

Commissioner Dale Norris agreed that the funding increase was necessary “for the health of the county.” Norris also explained that the levy was a renewal with an addition of just three-tenths of a mill increase.

Fisher appealed to any community service organizations willing to help out with the education campaign and volunteer services to help promote the levy should contact his office.

“We are in a position to help them out,” Commissioner Bill Host added. “The levy will not produce any money immediately, so I think we should be OK with this increase.”

All three commissioners agreed and voted to approve the requested funds in the form of a loan which Bethel explained would help in tracking the funds.

Theresa Monteney, administrative and education assistant, Carroll-Columbiana-Harrison Joint Solid Waste Management District, announced that the annual electronics and household hazardous waste recycling event would be held Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. until noon at the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Cadiz. Due to recycling cost increases, there will be a $5 fee charged for all CRT televisions and monitors.

Tires will be recycled for 50 cents apiece with a limit of ten, which Monteney reminded was the legal limit allowed to be hauled in Ohio. She advised that latex paint, automotive batteries, used oil or containers larger than five gallons would not be accepted. The event is for district residents only. There is a 100 pound limit for residents and no businesses will be permitted to recycle at the event.

The commissioners passed agreement 55-14 with Cardinal Gas, a Road Use and Maintenance Agreement for 5.6 mi. of Harrison 17, 0.82 mi. of Harrison 22, 0.46 mi. of Harrison 13, 0.18 mi. of Harrison 59 and 1.42 mi. of Harrison 51.

In other business:

The board approved appropriations increases of $150,000 in other, $20,000 in coroner and $100,000 in contracts line items.

The board approved a $10,000 increase request from the sheriff in the foreclosures account.

The commissioners also finalized the lease amendment with MarkWest tabled at last week’s meeting.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com.