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Health coordinator position in jeopardy

Harrison County is in jeopardy of losing its public health coordinator-office manager, if the state opts to stop providing funds and local money isn’t provided by the county council.
Members of the Harrison County Health Board pleaded its case to the council for funding Monday night. They said the state, in all likelihood, will stop funding the position after this year, but they won’t know for sure until October.
‘We need to get the $47,000 a year,’ said Maurice Fisher, health department board member, who praised the work that Tony Combs has done. ‘He has done a great job for the health department.’
Combs, who has held the position since it was created in November 2004, said, ‘We haven’t received guidance from the state that the money is coming in.’
In addition to running the day-to-day operations of the health department, Combs works closely with neighboring counties to make sure they are on the right page.
‘Eighty percent of my time is working on preparedness and planning,’ Combs said.
Since 2004, the money for Combs’ position has been granted from the federal government as it was funneled through the state. The money was a portion of the homeland security funds implemented after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
‘Since there has not been any recent attacks, the money is being cut back, unfortunately,’ said Combs.
Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads speculated on the reasons for the stoppage. ‘Now that a plan is prepared, local people can follow that plan,’ she said.
‘That was the idea, but plans must be continually updated, changed, and additions must be added,’ Combs responded. ‘These plans are dynamic and ever-changing.’
Councilman Gordon Pendleton wanted to know if Combs dealt with anything other than security.
‘Our county has really grown,’ Fisher replied. ‘Having an office manager in place to guide nurses, sanitarians and others has taken a lot of pressure off the health board.’
The sanitarians make sure the restaurants in the area are up to standard.
‘The sanitation means a lot to people traveling through our area,’ Combs said.
Combs said he has 14 or 15 full- or part-time people working for him.
‘You need a person of Tony’s caliber for this job,’ added Fisher.
The council will vote on the position as a new hire at their next budget meeting on Tuesday.
In other business Monday night:
‘ Fred Cammack, Corydon Town Council president, informed the council that the town may need two of four payments this year for the construction of the sewer plant, as opposed to the former plan of just one this year and three in 2008. The council will vote on it at their next regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 27.
‘ The Town of Palmyra presented the council with a request for $124,875 for the construction of a senior citizen housing center. ‘This facility is for all senior citizens of northern Harrison County, not just for Palmyra,’ said George Morgan, a member of the Palmyra Town Council.
The senior center, which would be equipped with a generator, could also serve as a tornado shelter. The housing project could be completed by November 2008, and the senior center by June 2009 at the latest.
‘This sounds like a good plan,’ said Carl (Buck) Mathes, chairman of the county council.
The council will vote on the center at their Sept. 10 meeting.
‘ The council will vote next meeting on $21,000 for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. to pay for dispatcher overtime, vacation, training and new hires.
‘ The council agreed to pay $1,846 out of capital outlay for a new printer for Sherry Brown, the county’s circuit clerk.

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