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Health coordinator position appears safe

The public health coordinator-office manager position for Harrison County appears to be secure for next year and the sheriff’s department may get another police officer. At least, that’s what the county council has planned after two nights of budget sessions last week.
At its session last Tuesday night, the council voted 6-0 to fund the public health coordinator-office manager position, held by Tony Combs. The position will be paid from the county’s health fund. Combs’ $47,000 salary has remained constant since the position was created in late 2004 with grant money from the Dept. of Homeland Security following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. That grant money runs out this fall.
‘This money we are asking for will get out and touch more people in the county than anything else voted on here tonight,’ said Maurice Fisher, a health department board member.
Combs was flanked by a number of supporters, including health department board members Drs. Kevin Pierson and George Estill. The sanitarians and other health officials need someone to answer to other than the health department board, said Pierson. The board consists of volunteer members and only meets for one hour each month.
‘We would be way beyond our capacity,’ said Estill. ‘It is unacceptable to go back (before Combs’ job was implemented).’
The council inquired about Combs’ salary, asking if it was too high.
‘Tony is the key person in our area of the state to manage an attack, such as small pox,’ Estill responded.
Combs has compiled a thick workbook plan in case of such an emergency. The council compared his salary with other important county figures, including the chief of the sheriff’s department.
‘Don’t compare his salary with someone who is underpaid,’ Fisher said. ‘What is more important than the health of the general public?’
Councilman Chris Timberlake asked if funding could come from grants or other sources. Combs informed the council that it could not.
The salary was kept the same by the council.
Also, the council tentatively approved adding one new road officer for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.
‘The sheriff’s department has been overworked with all the drug business,’ said council chair Carl (Buck) Mathes, speaking for the need of an additional officer.
Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick had requested two new officers, but the council only has added money to the 2008 budget for one.
The county surveyor, Tom Bube, is set to receive a 17-percent increase in his salary, citing comparisons to surveyors in surrounding counties and the amount of work put in. Bube’s salary increased from $19,809 to $24,000 per year.
These salaries and positions won’t become official until the council reads and approves them next month during its regularly scheduled meetings.