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New Health Dept. sites to be considered this week

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

With an eviction deadline looming, members of the Harrison County Board of Health plan to spend part of next week looking at rental property.

During a special meeting of the board Friday, a quorum of members unanimously voted to conduct on-site inspections of 10 properties where the health department might relocate.

"We'll look at the property then get back together to make a decision," said Mary Ann Iquinto, president of the board.

County commissioners are forcing the department to move to make room for a third circuit court division, which was created by the West Virginia Legislature in 1999.

Current judges Thomas Bedell and John Marks reported to the commission that a third courtroom and staff offices will be needed when the new judge takes office in January 2001.

That means renovations must be completed by the end of this year. The commission has given the department a March 31 deadline to move from the courthouse.

The board met Feb. 4 to decide where the department will move, but no decision was made because a rental analysis had not been conducted.

During a 45-minute executive session Friday, department administrators presented that analysis to board members, Iquinto said.

In addition to deciding to visit each site before making a decision, the board also acknowledged that the deadline for moving is fast approaching. Members unanimously voted to send a letter to the county commission asking for a deadline extension.

With little more than a month left, making the move will be difficult if not impossible, said Randy Moodispaugh, department administrator.

"I don't think (we can do it)," he said. "But that's the deadline we've got."

Moodispaugh is hopeful the board will meet again within a week to make a final decision on a new location, he said.

Then, it will be time to face another worry. Before adjourning, the board unanimously agreed to send a letter to the commission asking for money to help with the move.

But the financial concerns are not just for the short term, Moodispaugh said.

"We've been very fortunate that the county court has allowed us to stay here all these years," he said. "They've helped us not only with rent, but with lights, heat, janitorial service and even phone service.

"They've been generous to us over the years, and we're appreciative. We're going to miss that -- we're going to miss that a lot."

Department administrators are concerned because that kind of support no longer will be available when they move from the courthouse.

"We're hoping we can figure out a way to do it," Moodispaugh said. "We have a service to the public to provide, so we will somehow."

The Harrison County Health Department was established under state law, but functions as an independent agency, Moodispaugh said. Its budget is comprised of money from the state, county commission and the City of Clarksburg.

"I talked to the state when I first heard about this," Moodispaugh said. "I was told there was nothing available to help us."

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