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More than just cash funding

Preston County Commission outlines contributions to the local health department

KINGWOOD — Preston County Commissioners say they  support the county health department, but one commissioner said that isn’t how the public sees it.

Commissioner Samantha Stone raised the subject Tuesday. Her fellow commissioners said they haven’t been receiving the criticism.

“As far as funding goes for our county health department, the county commission does help our county health department in multiple ways. There has been some negative social media flying around saying that we have cut the funding from our health department, which is not true,” Stone said.

In the current fiscal year, the commission cut all cash funding for the department, but it continues to provide space,  access to the county administrator’s expertise and other things. 

The previous fiscal year, the commission gave the department a $23,057 cash contribution. The department’s total budget before any CARES Act funding that may come in this year  is $474,215.

As previously reported, up until 2016-17, the county funded the department at a higher rate. That fiscal year commissioners cut the health department’s $36,742 allocation of the previous year by $6,000 after the board of health passed a countywide smoking ban.

“We were chastised some for that,” Commissioner Dave Price said Thursday.

 But, “we work with them very well,” Price said. “We work with them a lot. We contribute to them in a lot of different ways, and [Health Department Administrator] V.J. [Davis] said he is happy with the support he gets from the commission.”

 What the county gives

All three commissioners said the free space provided at the courthouse annex for the health department is a huge contribution.

“They don’t realize how much that space we give them is worth,” Commission President Don Smith said of critics. “The original reason they had that funding was to pay their rent and help pay their utilities when they were down at the plaza.”  

In the future, Price said he believes the department would be better off in a standalone building, and he can see the commission helping with rent on that.

 “They’re not providing the kind of service they did five years ago,” Price said, and that dictates its needs.

Administrator Kathy Mace also helps the department seek grants, commissioners said. Grant writing is part of Mace’s job description, and she helps any county agency that requests assistance.

 She helped the health department with its application for CARES Act reimbursement. Those are federal funds available during the pandemic for specific costs related to  COVID-19 and are not funds normally available.

About $20,000 in CARES is pending for the department now, Mace said. A second request is being prepared.

Davis said in May that an earlier $40,044 COVID-19 West Virginia Grant provided some extra funding and covered the loss of the $23,057 from the county.

Mace previously said the county has helped the department with equipment like tents,  traffic cones for COVID-19 testing sites and PPE.

County commission staff has even helped the department take phone calls from people making appointments for vaccines, Smith said. 

 “Most people have come to the conclusion that we are helping them out,” Smith said.

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