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Health Dept. draws up plans for future home

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

CLARKSBURG -- Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department officials now have a rough draft of how their quarters might look if they move.

Whether that will become a reality -- or when -- remains uncertain.

Department officials gave their preliminary ideas for a one-story layout to the United Technical Center. The tech center, at no cost, sketched a rough floor plan, said Randy Moodispaugh, department administrator.

A big change in the sketched layout involves space.

The health department had about 8,000 square feet in the courthouse, said Charlene Leon, health department office manager. It has about 4,000 square feet now, she said.

The plan calls for 12,100 square feet, Moodispaugh said, including a 600-square-foot waiting room. The current "waiting room": Two cramped offices.

There also would be more space for workers, Leon said. Now, four or five health department nurses often must work together in a 90-square-foot room, Leon said.

"When you cram people into these rooms like we have been ... morale's down," she said.

There's no guarantee the department will move soon. Or ever. Or that the layout will be feasible at a new location.

But Moodispaugh and Leon said it's an important step in applying for grants or loans.

The health department has requested funding from the state Legislature, Leon said. A decision on whether the department gets that funding will be made near the end of the month, she said.

Leon also would like to apply for a grant through the Appalachian Regional Commission. And the department also might be able to qualify for low-cost loans, she said.

Some of these applications require the department to have property in mind on which to build or relocate. Also, county commissioners have indicated they might have some property in mind for the department's move, Moodispaugh said.

"We want to hear what the commissioners have in mind for us," Moodispaugh said. "And we need to know if (the board of health) wants us to stay within three blocks of downtown Clarksburg. ... Or if we can move outside that area, out to East Pointe, or somewhere like that. We've asked them ... and we're waiting on their answer."

That could come as soon as the board of health's next regular meeting, 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Harrison County commissioners' conference room at the county courthouse.

But Harrison-Clarksburg Board of Health President Mary Ann Iquinto stressed board members won't rush.

She cited the board's previous move, from the courthouse to its current location in the Policano Professional Building in downtown Clarksburg. That move drew widespread scrutiny and criticism.

"I think we all recognize (a move) probably is going to happen," Iquinto said.

"But I think the fact we had to move rapidly before caused us to not be able to have an environment that meets the needs as far as size and accessibility and that kind of thing," she said. "I think before we move again we want to be sure we're going to have the best available space, and have adequate space, and be able to look at the future as to what our needs are and will be."

County Commissioner Jim Smith also is a member of the board of health. He, too, wants to make sure any move is made wisely.

"I think what they have now is inadequate," he said. "I don't want it to be long term. ... From my perspective, I want to define something the next 90 days. ... We may not be able to move that fast. We've got to talk to other members of the board. But the longer we wait, it creates more of a problem for the community and our employees."

Smith said, from his standpoint, there are three main options: Constructing a new building in Clarksburg, moving the health department into another building in Clarksburg or moving the health department into the county courthouse's annex.

The courthouse annex probably would be the least likely of those options, Smith said. Much of the annex space probably will be used as a centralized place for county offices to store their records, he said.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Harvey can be reached at (304) 626-1032, or by e-mail at mharvey@exponent-telegram.com

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