Board of Health considers location alternatives


MOUNT GILEAD — At their Feb. 6 meeting, Commissioners approved a lease agreement with Job and Family Service (JFS) for office space in the Community Services Building at 619 W. Marion Rd. in mount Gilead.

Commissioner Tom Whiston said the area the JFS uses is 73 percent and the area the Health Department uses is 19 percent. The lease agreement listed $445,598.28 as the annual total for the JFS. The monthly rent in 2019 for JFS is $37,133.19.

“We are hoping to have everything worked out,” Whiston said.

The Morrow County Board of Health met Monday Feb. 11 and discussed the latest proposal from County Commissioners concerning their location and payment for their office and clinic.

Board President, Marty Mooney said board members received a letter the day of their meeting from Commissioners. It gave two alternatives for the Health Department location.

They may remain at their present location in the Community Services building with a rental charge of $72,000 over the next three years, or divide the department and have the clinic remain where it is and pay $25,000 rent per year and have the rest of the Health Department move to the Wilhelm Building.

Both the Health department staff and the board agreed that it is more convenient for county residents and staff for the clinic, nursing department and other services to remain together. Stephanie Zmuda recalled the time a few years back when they were in three locations. She said that separation of services is not cost effective, or convenient for clients or staff.

County Auditor, Pat Davies explained that money to pay additional expenses can be apportioned to townships and villages in the county.

Board members and staff didn’t like the idea of taking money from the townships to pay for the costs of bringing the Wilhelm Building up to Health Department standard.

“So we are taking money from townships that the commissioners are supposed to be providing for our Health Department?” said board member Jeff Polzin.

Polzin questioned why commissioners had not responded to the proposal of their January 16 meeting when it seemed they had worked out an agreement. He expressed disappointment that they received no response from commissioners concerning the board’s written proposal to give up 1,000 feet of their office space to a rental client and give a donation of $15,000 per year for use of the present Health Department area.

Prosecuting Attorney Charles Howland suggested that the board get a legal opinion. He said the main question is “what are adequate facilities” since the law requires County Commissioners provide suitable housing for health departments. Since Howland represents both the Board of Health and the Commissioners, he will not be able to give an opinion.

After an hour considering their options, the Board of Health agreed to accept Board member Dr. Grant Galbraith’s suggestion to seek legal counsel. They will request an attorney to give an opinion on the matter about the commissioners’ obligation to provide suitable housing for the Health Department.

They asked Health Commissioner Pam Butler to call an attorney about the question of what constitutes suitable facilities with a reasonable cost for the department.

Commissioners said at their Feb. 13 meeting that they rejected the Board of Health’s proposal and remain firm that rent should be $72,000 per year for their present space in the Community Services Building. They cited maintenance costs for the building and needed roof repairs as well the cost of remaining debt on the building, as reasons for asking an increase in rental payment.

The alternative they offer is for the clinic to remain where it is at a rental amount of $25,000 and move the remainder of the department to the Wilhelm Building. They believe it is adequate with some alterations and say that the amount of $200,000 suggested to prepare it is exaggerated.

Morrow County resident, Bob Sutherland attended both the commissioners’ meeting and Board of Health meeting. He told commissioners that the problem is a lack of communication between the commissioners and board.

Commissioners answered that they welcome Board of Health members to their meeting to discuss any matters or to ask questions. Commissioners said they didn’t attend the Board of Health meeting Monday because they weren’t invited.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel

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