The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

December 12, 2012

MPO presentation draws questions from commission



Wender told meeting attendees he wants to hear what the county health department is doing about major health issues like diabetes, obesity, teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse.

He wants to know specific programs they execute in those areas, what their funding structure looks like, and what they do in the way of board development.

“Do you do what’s required to get by, or are you aggressively setting the standard and leading the way for health care?” he asked the department’s director, Roseann Michaels.

He said he was “disappointed” by the health department’s response to the June 29 wind storm and feels they should have been first in line on the scene.

Wender wants to have a discussion about whether the department should pursue partnerships with other counties, as is done in some other parts of the state that are considered leaders in the field of public health.

Fayette County’s department has eight staff members and focuses on nursing, threat preparedness, and environmental health. They handle restaurant inspections and administer health screenings, among other programs.

Commissioner John Lopez complained to Michaels of unsafe, unsanitary housing and living conditions in the area near Smithers, and wondered why the health department hadn’t done anything to address those matters.

Michaels said her inspectors follow up on all citizen complaints but that they are limited in their authority to affect change.

“Our sanitarians are frustrated too,” she says.

Michaels is scheduled to appear again before the commission in February to continue the conversation.

- - -

The Fayette County Weatherization Program continues to see a low number of project completions, and the program budget has been cut by 60 percent to 65 percent, said Earl Smith, director of Mountain Heart, which contracts with the county to carry out the program.

The Weatherization Assistance Program’s goal is to reduce energy costs for low-income families by improving the energy efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety. Workers install insulation and seal air leaks in homes that qualify for the program.

Appearing before the commission in April, before the budget cuts, Smith told the commission the program lacked 24 weatherization completions due in June and faced a projected budget shortfall of nearly $40,000.

He told commissioners Friday that Mountain Heart did indeed finish the required number of projects, but that they had to do so by “cherry-picking” the quick, easy ones. He said that besides the elderly and people with disabilities, there are no guidelines for prioritizing projects.

“It’s purely a numbers game,” he said.

The program’s current total budget for Wyoming and Fayette counties is $392,610 for a total of 56 required projects.

Mountain Heart has averaged about three completions per month since July, meaning the program is likely to fall behind again this year.

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