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Commission grapples with relocation of Health Board

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

The Harrison County Commission once again wrangled with the issue of relocating the Board of Health and the space needs of a growing court system at a Tuesday morning meeting.

County Administrator Jim Harris told commissioners that caseloads for Harrison County Circuit Court and Magistrate Court have doubled since 1990. Harris added that continued growth in cases may one day make it necessary to find office space for additional probation officers and family law masters.

"We need to look into future expansion and whether we'll need to build up or outward," said Commission President Roger Diaz. "But to have done a five-year plan for growth would not have served us very well because there was no way to have known what was ahead of us," Diaz added, referring to the creation of a third circuit judge by the state Legislature. The additional judge is due to take office Jan. 1, 2001.

"I think that we need to have a meeting with the judges," said Commissioner Tom Keeley. "It's the court system that's growing more than anything."

The issue of Friday's deadline for the relocation of the county Board of Health offices arose once again when BOH director Randy Moodispaugh told members the lease agreement for the board's new office spaces had not been delivered to the building owner, Dominick Policano, by the BOH attorney. Moodispaugh also said a large amount of work needs to be completed on the new offices before they will be useable.

"In general, it needs painted, there are doors that need to be re-keyed, there are floor coverings that need to be replaced and before we can start that, there's a lot of stuff that needs to be torn out of there," Moodispaugh said. "The contractor tells us it would take about 30 days."

Moodispaugh said yes when Diaz asked if the renovations would have to be completed before the BOH could move in. Neither Diaz or Keeley offered to give the BOH another deadline extension for moving. The commission had previously granted an extension from March 31 to Friday.

"There is no way that I, as one person on the commission, am going to agree to another 30 days," Diaz said. "It's my feeling the health department has created this situation of urgency. It's not something that just happened overnight, it's something they've known about for almost a year."

In other business, Diaz and Keeley approved a $4,000 expenditure of matching funds to assist in renovations to the kitchen at the West Milford Community Center. Harris said the upgrade will include installing a dish machine in order to meet health department requirements, as well as installing a deep fryer.

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