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Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department Nurse Director Sue McKisic addresses commissioners at their July 15 meeting.

Health department requests property transfer

BUCKHANNON – Members of the Buckhannon-Upshur Board of Health spoke with the Upshur County Commission Thursday to request a proposed transfer of ownership of the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department property from the county to the health board for grant purposes.

The health department is located at 15 S. Locust St.

The reason stated for the request was to meet Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity funding, or ELC, grant requirements for renovations to the UBHD. Sue McKisic, nurse director/administrator of the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, said there were several stipulations that might require a change or update in ownership of the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department building, which she understood to be necessary for the receipt of grant funding.

Commission members did not take action on this request during their regular Thursday meeting but decided to wait until they learn exactly what the state would require regarding ownership before voting to make a change.

“The architect has come and looked at (the building) so, we are not getting a fly-by-night contractor – we are following the rules,” McKisic said. “They are estimating (the updates) would run $265,000 or a little above to cover that.”

McKisic said an official from the state of West Virginia told her they would need to have ownership of the building in order to receive the grant funding.

“I know once the grant monies have dried up, we will not be able to take on the expenses at the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department because state aid will not cover it,” McKisic said. “I do not know if we can work out an agreement – if it could possibly be joint ownership. I sent some requests to the state – of which I have not received an answer back yet – if it could be a long-term lease agreement or something to that affect that would help us get this (grant).”

She said the improvements that would be made possible by the grant would enhance patient care and improve the building tremendously for both staff and patients.

“I think it is something, even with a little work on the outside of the building, would make us proud of our local health department,” McKisic said. “I am hoping you (Upshur County Commissioners) will work with us and have the Prosecuting Attorney review all avenues to see what we could work out best. Hopefully, the state will agree to something to help us work through this so we can get it done. It will be beneficial to us and to you as property owners.”

Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte asked McKisic if the state said joint ownership would be okay. McKisic said the state did not mention that, adding it was something she and Upshur-Buckhannon Board of Health members talked about.

Upshur-Buckhannon Board of Health member Larry Carpenter said the board has not been told exactly what they can do.

“Dealing with the state, it is hard to get an answer sometimes – a complete answer,” Carpenter said. “We are still trying to investigate. First, we heard we had to own the building. Now, we are looking at avenues – they think that may not be the case. I suggested maybe being ownership partners or a lease, but that is still up in the air. But the money is there and it is going to make that building look so much better and will make it more energy efficient. But there are some hoops we will have to jump through.”

Nolte asked what the timeline on the project looked like.

McKisic said the grant had to be submitted by July 15, that day.

“However, they have now postdated it back to Jan. 1, 2021, and have extended it to July 31, 2023,” McKisic said.

“So, we have some time?” Nolte asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Carrie Wallace, Upshur County Commission administrator, asked McKisic if a copy of a deed for the property was required in the grant application and McKisic said no.

“When you spoke with the person on the phone, you were not sure if that woman was giving her personal opinion or if that was an actual requirement of the grant,” Wallace said. “I glanced over the guidance she provided you this morning, prior to this meeting. I do not see anywhere that it states you have to be the owner – but there might be another document.”

McKisic said when she talked to Maria Del Rosario, she was the one who said, “Why would we do improvements and not have a deed? The county could put us out.”

McKisic said the Buckhannon-Upshur Health Department is there for the duration.

“I told her our county commission would not do that,” McKisic said. “Del Rosario told me she did not feel good doing it (approving the grant) without us having the title to the property. That is when I called Carrie (Wallace) and got the ball rolling and asked to be placed on the Commission agenda.”

McKisic said the grant money was federal funding that went to the state, and the health department is considered a ‘subrecipient’ of the grant. She explained the grant is needed because currently, the building has high ceilings, outdated doors and windows that are not energy efficient.

“In the wintertime, the waiting room, with the thermostat set at 72 to 74 degrees, remains about 48 to 50 degrees,” McKisic said. “That is not conducive for elderly people coming in. The wind comes in around the single-pane windows and around the doors. With this grant, the ceilings will be lowered, the windows will be replaced with double pane windows, the door front will be changed to one door that will be movable and 36 inches – making it ADA-compliant.”

“New ceilings will be placed in the rest of the offices, there will be new LED lighting, the bathrooms will be 36 inches for handicapped accessibility,” she added. “My office will be split into two offices and there will be two offices added in back. All patient care will be taken care of in the front – no one would have to come beyond a certain doorway except staff. I think it would be much better for our community and much more energy efficient and better for staff. It will bring our building up to current code guidelines.”

Upshur County Commission President Kristie Tenney asked McKisic to gather information and get back with them.

Nolte said a lease would be the best option.

“I want to keep you in the loop and plan where we move from here,” McKisic said and Tenney asked her to call back and get back on the agenda when she had more information.

In other business, Commissioners took the following action:

  • Voted unanimously to approve a request from Buckhannon Mayor Robert N. Skinner III requesting a 911 address to be assigned to a property located on the newly named Raella Lane, adjacent to the Event Center at Brushy Fork.
  • Voted unanimously to advertise for a full-time deputy sheriff. Applications must be received by 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

The Upshur County Commission meeting slated for Thursday, July 22, 2021, has been canceled. The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Commission will be Thursday, July 29, 2021, at 9 a.m. at the Upshur County Courthouse Annex.

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