Growing pains

Published 10:51 am Friday, October 24, 2014

Council will look into moving health department to town

The simultaneous growth of the city and county health departments coupled with an aging building has the Ironton health commissioner looking for a new location.

Laura Brown, director of the Ironton Health Department, and Patti Rice, president pro-tem of the city board of health, spoke to council about the idea of relocating the city health department, possibly to the fourth floor of the city center.

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Brown asked for two council members to serve on an exploratory committee in regard to moving the health department. Philip Heald and Aaron Bollinger volunteered to serve.

“We’re looking for a couple of things to do with the health department,” Brown said. “One is moving it downtown to allow more accessibility than the current residential area in which it is located.”

A $200,000 no interest loan available through Ohio Shared Services is what Brown said could go a long way toward making the move feasible.

In the letter, Brown said the current building is owned by the county commissioners, is shared by the city and county health departments and the city’s portion is in need of major repairs such as a new roof, furnace and air conditioning unit.

“Over the years the commissioners have made these updates to the county’s portion of the building but not the city’s portion,” she said. “It has finally gotten to the point where there is insufficient heat in the city’s portion of the building.”

Brown asked council to consider three options: receiving additional funds from the city to make the necessary upgrades; purchase office space and use the current space for storage; or renovate a space in the fourth floor of the city building to house the health department and use the current space for storage.

Vice Mayor Kevin Waldo asked if the city was obligated by the terms of the lease to take care of its portion of the building by the health department and if a written lease existed.

“There is a written lease,” Brown said, “but it was drafted when the hospital was the overseer.”

Brown said city has paid for its own repairs in the past and the building’s utilities are split.

Waldo asked if the current space was big enough.

“We have 40 percent of the building and they have 60 percent,” Brown said. “(The county) could actually use the whole building themselves and we are now running out of room ourselves and need to expand.”

Relocating out of the current residential neighborhood was something on which everyone agreed.

“When the hospital was there it was a good place for the health department,” Rich Blankenship, Ironton mayor, said. “Now it’s in the middle of a residential area and people can’t find it and I think it would do more business, so to speak, if it was moved out of that neighborhood.”

Aaron Bollinger, council member, agreed with getting the department out of the residential community.

In other business, Blankenship gave an update on Monday’s public meeting about the possible closure of the Pine St. Railroad crossing and Boy Scout Troop 104 from the First United Methodist Church was recognized for being in attendance to earn community and citizenship merit badges.

Ordinance 14-38, allowing for vacating part of Market Street, was voided when council determined the action stated within the ordinance could be done through city action.