WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The Putnam County Board of Health voted Wednesday to approve a contract that will transfer control of clinical services for the Putnam health department to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for six months.
The board voted 3-2 to sign the contract, which requires that Putnam County's state allotment of funds be paid to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, which must hire a staff and secure a new location for the Putnam health department by Aug. 1.
Ryan Lockhart, a member of the Putnam health board, said he voted against the contract not because he thought there was a better option for the county, but because he didn't feel familiar enough with the contract's projected budget to approve it.
"It's nothing against the contract," Lockhart said. "I just struggle with the numbers at this point."
The decision is part of a plan to take care of the agency's fiscal instability.
The Putnam board appointed Kanawha-Charleston administrator Lolita Kirk on June 13 to advise the board about stabilizing its finances. On June 24, the board voted to lay off the department's 12-member staff, an action the state's Division of Personnel approved.
A more extensive financial evaluation of the Putnam health department showed the agency owed more than $290,000 to creditors. It has since paid $15,000 to its former landlord, Gary Young, as well as $20,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, according to board member and County Commissioner Andy Skidmore.
"Our current administrator has done a good job of going out there and collecting final balances, so I think we're close, but there is no guarantee everything has been accounted for," Skidmore said.
A majority of the Board of Health's five members joined the board less than a month ago. Skidmore, the newest member of the County Commission, was appointed to the board July 1 following the departure of fellow Commissioner Joe Haynes, who left the board June 30. Two of its other members, Mike Keiffer and Bryan <co >Escue, were appointed July 9.
The Putnam health board had explored other ideas prior to establishing an agreement with the Kanawha-Charleston agency, including a partial reduction in staff. The health board applied for emergency funding in April, but withdrew its request in May after being unable to meet time constraints set by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
According to Kirk, guidelines that dictate how emergency funds can be used do not allow agencies to apply for or use emergency funds to pay down debt that resulted from "mismanagement."
The state is auditing the Putnam health department, which is something Skidmore said affected the Putnam agency's decision to withdraw its request for emergency funding.
"The audits had not taken place at that time," Skidmore said. "At that time, they only knew about certain debts. At that time, there were no issues with the state."