County Ponders New Health Department Proposal

Saline County Commissioners appear split as they discuss a new proposal from the City of Salina in regard to the future of the Salina-Saline County Health Department.

A structure problem with the roof caused the health department to close back in  May of 2012. Since that time, city and county commissioners have been trying to come up with a plan for a permanent facility and the best course of action for the future of the agency.

After an emotional special meeting Monday evening, the city drafted a new proposal to send to the county. Highlights of the proposal include:

1.  $500,000 city funding for the building

2. $500,000 in health department reserve funds to be used for renovation only

3. The concept of an interlocal agreement be agreed upon and details then worked out

The proposal is contingent upon the health department staying intact.

If a new agreement is not reached, the health department will become solely a county agency. If that happens there are fears that include possible loss of programs and staff.

County commissioners Tuesday morning discussed the issue at an early study session, and later heard multiple people speak about it at their formal meeting. At each meeting numerous people urged the county to accept Moday evening’s proposal from the city, and to enter into a new joint agreement.

Commissioner Randy Duncan said that he does not like the city’s proposal, and will not support it. City Commissioner Jon Blanchard was among those who attended the early morning study session. He urged Duncan to not “take personally” anything that has happened so far in the negotiations. An irritated Duncan responded that he has been involved in politics for over thirty-years and is not taking anything personally. During the meeting Duncan also expressed frustration that some people have characterized the county as being unwilling to compromise on the issue.

Commissioner John Price seemed receptive, saying though that he does not support spending any more than $1 million to fix the building. He read a bible passage that refers to not building a structure you cannot afford.

Luke:14 28-30
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, his man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

Commissioner Jim Gile seemed to be still struggling with the issue. Blanchard urged Gile to keep the health department a joint-city county agency, saying that he admired Gile’s lifetime of helping others and that this was a chance to do more good.

Before making any decisions, county commissioners will consult with county counselor Mike Montoya. They have a conference call with him scheduled for this afternoon.