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Health department closer to possible move

Dr. Derek DuFore, chiropractor and member of the Ironton Health Department board, addressed the members of council about a proposal to consider a backup bid for a parcel on 405 S. Third St. to be the new location of the Ironton City Health Department.

DuFore said there is a bid in place but is requesting the backup bid as a security measure.

“We are looking for funding through the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund,” DuFore said. “We have outgrown our facility. The heating and air unit is pretty much shot and each time they come out and fix it it’s just a Band-Aid.”

To completely repair the current heating and air unit would cost an estimated $14,000, DuFore said.

The 10-year zero-interest Innovation Fund loan would be for $200,000 with annual payments of $20,000.

The lack of convenience created by the current health department’s location at 2120 S. Eighth St. is another reason DuFore cited for the proposed move.

The desired location is 4,200 square feet, which DuFore said equates to $47 per square foot. If relocated to that location, the health department would also acquire use of half the parking lot.

Council member Bob Cleary asked what would happen to the current building if the department moves, specifically if it would be possible to sell the city’s part of the building to the Lawrence County Health Department or if the city’s department would simply abandon the building.

“We have tried to locate the original lease and have been unable to do so,” DuFore said. “We have contacted the county commissioners and a couple of them said we will give you back what you have put in it, which is a dollar a year.”

Council member Craig Harvey said being unable to locate the lease has been a large part of the problem so far.

“As far as we know it’s ended up in a shredder somewhere or just doesn’t exist,” Harvey said. “We’ve looked in every place we know to look to find the original lease because the majority owner of the building was originally the hospital. When the hospital moved out it reverted to the next largest majority, which was the county, but (the city) still had some part in it.”

Harvey said sharing services and costs with the county has done well in some aspects but poorly in others.

“They’ll tell us ‘that’s on you all because it’s on your half of the building’ even though the county controls the whole building,” Harvey said. “They treat it as two when they need to and treat it as one when they need to.”

DuFore said the new location seems “move-in ready” with the roof and heating and air unit in good shape.

Vice Mayor Kevin Waldo said he thinks the proposal is an “excellent idea” and referred the request to the council’s finance committee.

In other business, ordinance 15-02 authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract for health insurance coverage for the city employees was given a first reading.

With a Feb. 1 deadline to adopt the health insurance proposal and council members Beth Rist and Aaron Bollinger absent, two special meetings were scheduled. The first special meeting is 5 p.m. on Wednesday and the second at 5 p.m. on Thursday. If enough council members are present to suspend the rules and adopt the ordinance on Wednesday, Thursday’s meeting will be canceled.

Mayor Rich Blankenship asked for meetings of the finance and public utilities committees as soon as next week to “keep the budget process moving forward.” State law requires a final operating budget be in place by March 31. Blankenship said he would like for the budget to be adopted by Feb. 26.

“I think we can do it,” Blankenship told the members of council. “What I’d like to do is start off working on the general fund at these meetings and every meeting work on a different department or two if they are small departments.”