A resolution was approved on Tuesday at a special called meeting of the Harlan Fiscal Court supporting the withdrawal of the Harlan County Health Department from the Cumberland Valley Health District.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop said the next step will include the local board of health voting to support this measure as well.
“After that, fiscal court will hire someone to do a feasibility study to show this action can be supported by a single county,” said Grieshop. “The county will also help with the hiring of an attorney to do legal separation activity. The separation would then take place on July 1.”
Grieshop said in talking with Bell County officials since their withdrawal from the district approximately one year ago, he discovered they have been successful thus far. He said there had been no furloughs and some of their people “had even received raises.”
Adding that 10 employees have been lost at the Harlan County Health Department since July, Grieshop said he felt Harlan and Bell counties had been the “flagships” of the Cumberland Valley Health District, providing the largest number of services each year.
“When Bell County pulled out that made the Cumberland Valley Health District weaker,” said Grieshop. “Then, they began using our strength to keep them going. In the recent weeks, we found out they weren’t even paying employee’s retirement in. There will be fines coming with that. The good news is we have an option. When Bell County pulled out they did have to borrow money for a few months, but that money is getting paid back. If we’re going to have a future for our local health department, we’re going to have to manage it from a closer position. That way we know what is going on and we can serve our public.”
Local Health Department Board treasurer Leo Miller said in Harlan County, “their appropriations were disproportional for the rest of the district,” which represents Clay, Rockcastle and Jackson.
“I’ve always said we pay too much to the district,” said Miller. “Always before it was, well, there’s strength in numbers, but if you look at it when Bell County pulled out that left Harlan County paying too much. I agree with the judge in his recommendation for withdrawing from the district.”
Grieshop said when layoffs were announced in December none were laid off in Rockcastle or Jackson counties, one was laid off in Clay County and Harlan County lost five with one being called back. He said during the same month four employees retired in Harlan and he questioned the need for layoffs.
The health department is a local taxing district. Harlan County Clerk Donna Hoskins said her office collected $15,376.85 in delinquent real estate taxes and $62,676.62 in ad valorem taxes for a total of $78,053.47 during 2012 for the Harlan County Health Department. The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office has collected over $307,000, through taxing, for the health department since November.
“I recently found out if cuts continue, the Tri-City area will be losing their satellite health department completely,” said Magistrate David Kennedy. “It’s not right that Harlan County is supporting other counties and taking the biggest cuts.”
Miller added the Bell County Health Department has offered their help in assisting the Harlan County Health Department if and when they vote to withdraw.
A meeting of the Harlan County Board of Health will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Harlan County Health Department.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com