CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Putnam County Board of Health made it official on Monday, voting to lay off its entire staff of 12 employees.
In an emergency meeting, the board also decided to provide services for at least the next six months through a contract with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Some of the displaced Putnam workers could be picked up by the Kanawha department.
"Given the financial situation being what it is, there's only certain things we can control. One of those is the cost of staff," said Putnam board member Joe Haynes.
"I would move that we institute a reduction in force of all staff pending approval by the state. We then contract with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to provide public health services for Putnam County in Putnam County."
The board discussed such a decision on Friday but lacked the quorum needed to take action.
The board is supposed to have five members, but one seat is currently vacant. Three members were present Monday, and a fourth joined the discussion by phone.
About 12 full-time employees will be out of jobs within a week, said Lolita Kirk, the current senior interim administrator for Putnam County Health Department.
Kirk was appointed to the position nearly two weeks ago to iron out the financial issues. Kirk also is the director of administration at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, a position she has held for seven years.
The Putnam board's financial crisis stemmed in part from attorney fees it incurred as it fought a legal battle with a former employee who sued for wrongful termination in 2010 and was reinstated in 2011.
The department has about $215,000 in overdue debts. That doesn't include current obligations, and a past-due notice is received every day, Kirk said.
"It's an extreme measure," Kirk said. "For a Board of Health to have to agree to shut its facility, it's not something anybody wants to do in any community."
While Kirk declined to release employee names, she said she met with them Friday to address concerns. She told them there would be a workforce reduction, but she did not know to what degree.
She said some of the employees have been with the organization for more than 20 years.
"There is nothing I hate more than laying off employees even if they're not mine," Kirk said.
"I've gotten to know these people. They've been helping me for a week now trying to figure out where is this, where is that, answering my questions. Being very helpful to me, very kind, very gracious.
"And to have to look at those faces and say, 'OK, Friday is your last day.' Nobody wants to do that.
"My New Year's resolution every year? Not to lay people off. Every year since I became a manager. I don't like it."
The decision to lay off the employees will be reviewed by the state Division of Personnel.