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Putnam health board withdraws funding request

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Putnam County Board of Health has withdrawn its application for emergency funding from the state, a board member and county commissioner said Wednesday.

The state asked the Putnam County Health Department to submit more information regarding its application by May 15 -- a deadline County Commissioner Joe Haynes said couldn't be met. 

The health department applied for about $186,000 from a local board of health emergency fund through the state Department of Health and Human Resources last month. 

For fiscal year 2013, the state Division of Local Health had $332,850 -- or 2 percent of its state funds -- set aside as emergency funds, according to its funding distribution statement.

"It wasn't information that couldn't be provided, it just would've taken too long to get it together," Haynes said. "As shorthanded as we are it just wasn't practical."

The Putnam agency needs help covering debt, which includes $80,800 in rent to Gary Young, president of G&G Builders; about $36,500 for vaccine costs; $18,000 to the IRS; $8,570 in state taxes; and $4,514 to the state Office of Technology.

They've also spent more than $100,000 paying attorney Karen Miller to defend them in two grievances filed with the Public Employees Grievance Board by a former employee. The board has appealed the latest decision ordering the employee be reinstated and be paid back pay. About $30,000 is still owed to Miller.

Last month, Putnam County commissioners agreed to loan the department $30,000.

The department is undergoing an audit by the state that board members requested. A payment plan has been set up to pay the IRS.

"We're in a bad situation, but we won't know how bad until the audit is finished. It's obvious we have money problems and we're understaffed," said Haynes, who is also a county health board member.

Joel McKinney, who took over as administrator at the Putnam agency in February, has ended many nonmandatory programs, cut ties with some vendors and relieved some contract workers.

Dr. Sam Henson, medical director of the Putnam department, said while clinical services and school and flu vaccines will be available, the department has cut out shots for traveling overseas and other immunizations.

Haynes said the department has been trying to maintain health inspections with not enough employees.

Besides McKinney, who is trying to do the job of sanitarian and administrator, there is a sanitarian supervisor who has been conducting inspections, Haynes said. Another sanitarian was recently hired, but he won't be able to conduct inspections until a several-month training period is completed.

"Right now it's out of the question to consider hiring another [sanitarian]," Haynes said, noting based on population the county is supposed to have three.

 According to West Virginia law, one of the duties of the Bureau for Public Health commissioner is "to monitor the administration, operation and coordination of the local board of health and local health officers."

"We'd welcome any help we can get -- guidance, anything the state could offer I'd welcome at this point," Haynes said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.

 


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