Belmont Country Health Department sets up grant fund

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Board of Health members were informed Monday that the health department is setting up a new fund to present a more accurate accounting of its grant money.

Currently, grant money is listed under the county health fund, along with the department’s annual allocation of $370,000 in tax revenue.

Tiffany Vcelka, the department’s administrative assistant, said $90,000 in grants and nursing contracts were placed in the county health fund, but could be listed in a separate fund.

The state and county auditors allow the creation of a separate fund for grants.

“We’re adding to it (the county health fund) when we shouldn’t be. We need to manage it better,” she said

The current method isn’t improper, but gives the county commissioners and township trustees an inaccurate view of the health department’s revenue sources and expenses.

Grant money can be used only for specific projects and programs, not for general expenditures to operate the health department.

“They don’t care about any of our other funds,” Vcelka said of the county commissioners and township officials. “They only care about the $370,000, the tax funds they give us.”

After a new fund is created, grant money will be moved into it from the county health fund, Vcelka said. She expects the new system to be fully operational by the end of the year.

Health officials learned of the issue during the county auditor’s budget meeting recently when Board of Health member Joel Braido questioned a discrepancy in the amount of money listed for the county health fund.

“The system is flawed,” Braido said. “We questioned them. We said, ‘We don’t have all that money.’ They’ve never been challenged before.”

Board President Elizabeth Glick said Braido went in “with a businessman’s perspective.”

“He really questioned it,” Glick said.

Board member Irene Louda said they didn’t have as much information in the past.

“It was already predetermined what they were going to do, and we had no voice,” Louda said. “This is good that this happening.”

Braido said it was “imperative that we address” the accounting issue.

In other action, the Board of Health approved 50-cent an hour pay increases for three employees who have completed their probationary periods; health educators Kelli Haney and Jessica Gibson and sanitarian-in-training Katie Mazur. Voting for the motion were Glick, Braido, Louda and board member Dwight Jenewein. Board members James King and Dr. Renato DelaCruz were absent.

The board also approved recommendations from Linda Mehl, director of nursing, to hire two workers for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program: a registered nurse (part-time position) and a peer helper.

The board awarded four contracts to M. Theaker and Sons of Colerain to repair or replace failing residential sewage treatment systems in a state grant-funded program.

Rich Lucas, director of environmental health, said three of the projects will be funded fully by a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He said half of the fourth project’s cost will be covered by the grant; the homeowner will be responsible for the remaining amount.

Dr. George L. Cholak, county health commissioner, said one birth and 64 deaths occurred in Belmont County in April. To date, only three births have occurred in the county this year.

The Board of Health’s next meeting will be held at noon June 10 at the health department, 68501 Bannock Road, St. Clairsville.

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