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Putnam commission finalizes health board loan

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners finalized an agreement Tuesday that will allow the county to loan another $20,000 to its ailing health department.

The Putnam County Health Department, which buckled in June over mounting financial problems, turned over its clinical services to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on July 1. A large portion of that debt was past-due rent owed to Gary Young, owner of the Teays Valley Corporate Center in Scott Depot.

In October, county health board members approved a payment of $34,205 to Young. The health board agreed to pay him about $130,000 over the next two fiscal years.

The County Commission already has loaned $30,000 to the board to pay Young, and agreed to an additional $20,000 Tuesday so that the health board can meet its obligation by the end of the fiscal year.

According to Jennifer Scragg Karr, the county's attorney, she included language in the agreement that would give the health department flexibility in repaying the commission.

"What this document does is reflect that you've loaned them a total of $50,000, and that the health board, if they have funds to do so during this fiscal cycle -- although I doubt they will -- they will pay you back," Scragg Karr said. "If not, then the next fiscal year, or the fiscal year after that, you can get repaid."

The health department entered into a multi-year lease with Young in 2010 -- even though it's against state law for a public county agency like the Putnam health department to enter into a lease agreement that lasts more than a year. Scragg Karr told the Gazette earlier this year that neither she nor the commission was consulted during the PCHD's talks on the lease.

"We give the money to the health board, and the health board decides," said Andy Skidmore, a county commissioner and health board member. "We owe [Gary Young] another $49,000 for this year, and $83,000 next year. We still have some funds, so the $20,000 added to the funds we already have, plus some payment arrangements we've made, will allow for that."

The Putnam health department also owes former sanitarian Barbara Koblinsky money, because she won two employee grievances against the board.

Koblinsky won her second wrongful-termination lawsuit against the PCHD in July, but the board has not addressed back payment for her. She was entitled to reinstatement, but her position was eliminated when the department was overhauled.

Koblinsky said she has been informed by her union counsel that there is no timetable to when she will be awarded back pay by the county.

"I was definitely singled out," Koblinsky said. "With this ongoing situation, I can't get a job with the state or with a county, and that's what really hurts. With the way the grievance system drags on, it feels like [former administrator] Jackie Fleshman essentially slandered me and painted me in this horrible light." She said she's exploring the possibility of a civil lawsuit.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.

 


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