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Putnam Commission to pay health board's outstanding bills directly

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD -- The Putnam County Commission will pay the Putnam County Health Department's outstanding bills directly instead of giving its usual $150,000 donation to the agency this year.

Commissioners Steve Andes and Andy Skidmore discussed the status of the county health department at Tuesday's regular commission meeting. Commissioner Joe Haynes was absent.

The health department ran into financial trouble earlier this year and is being managed by Kanawha County Health Department. All of Putnam's health department employees have been laid off, and the board that governs the agency is working to get the department running independently again.

Andes said he and other commissioners have been fielding questions from the public about the health department.

"Everybody assumes it's a county agency," Andes said. "It's not a county agency."

The commission contributes $150,000 to the health department each year, and the state health department contributes about $400,000 each year. The employees are paid as state employees.

"It's hard to understand," Andes said. "If the state has oversight, how accountable are they?"

However, the local health board hires employees, and the commission appoints members of the board.

In fact, commissioners voted to fill two vacant seats on the health board Tuesday. Michael Keiffer of Scott Depot and Bryan Escue of Hurricane will join the board immediately. Both applied for the positions.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will receive funds from the state health department that would have gone to Putnam County's health department while it is in control of operations in Putnam.

The county commission will use the funds it allocated for the health department to pay bills directly to keep things simpler, Andes said.

"My understanding after attending the last meeting," Skidmore said, "is that their board will vote on a list of invoices to pay, and they'll transfer them to use, and we'll pay them directly out of the county fund."

If those bills total more than $150,000, the county will have to decide what to do.

"Personally, I think we need to make it right," Andes said. "It's going to cost us one way or another."

An audit to determine if any fraud occurred is ongoing.

In other news, the county will soon accept payments by debit and credit cards.

Commissioners voted to approve a bid from FIS, formerly Fidelity Information Services, to provide debit and credit card vendor services.

Any office in the courthouse that accepts payments from the public will have a card reader, as will any department outside the courthouse that wishes to have one.

Kanawha County has the same vendor since 2006. The card readers are slated to be in place in six to 12 weeks.


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