Pocahontas County Commission Approves Early Fund Disbursement For County Hospital

Marlinton, WV – Under normal circumstances, the Pocahontas County Commission would allocate $75,000.00 in Hotel Motel tax money to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital in January – but these are not normal circumstances. The hospital, under joint management with Minnie Hamilton Health System is struggling to get back in the black.

Steve Whited, Chief Operating Officer for Minnie Hamilton and Chad Carpenter, Chief Financial Officer for PMH asked the County Commission Tuesday to release the $75,000.00 now rather than waiting until January. Whited says they are taking a number of steps to reduce monetary losses, but cash flow is still a problem, hence the request. He says the losses may not be as severe as feared.

“Well just to give you an example, the audited financial statements are not complete for the previous year, but at year ending the unaudited financial statements showed about a 1.3 million dollar loss” says Whited. “We believe with some cost report adjustments and different adjustments; that’ll be down to [a] 500,000.00 or 600,000.00 dollar loss.”

Whited says Minnie Hamilton is taking other steps to bring costs down such as bringing billing back in house and reducing overtime. Other ideas in the works include an application for a 100,000 Rural Health Crisis Grant, and a push to collect on past due patient debts.

Commission President Martin Saffer was about to make a motion to grant the hospital request when Commissioner Reta Griffith stopped him. Because Saffers’ wife works for the hospital, Griffith advised him to recuse himself and asked that the decision be put on hold until Commissioner Fleming arrived.

Commissioner David Fleming was delayed Tuesday morning. When he arrived he and Griffith passed a motion to grant the hospitals request. Saffer agreed to abstain from the vote, while going on record that he disagrees with Griffiths’ interpretation of the ethics code.

PMH was not the only organization seeking money on Tuesday. Here’s Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition Director Ginny Ramos outlining their request.

“So what we’re asking for today, I guess immediately, is $10,000.00” says Ramos “and then for another commitment for $20,000.00 more. And if you break that down into community members, that’s roughly $25.00 per school age child in Pocahontas County annually; and $3.50 per person in Pocahontas County.”

While all three Commissioners support the work of the Coalition, the amount of discretionary funding available from the Commission for programs such as these is rapidly dwindling. In fact the fund is down to less than $35,000.00 and it must last through June 30th, 2011.

While Commissioners Griffith and Fleming were inclined to grant the initial 10,000.00 request, Commissioner Saffer argued to hold onto the remaining discretionary funds in case the hospital needs further assistance. But Griffith points out that there is money in the County stabilization fund that could be used for the hospital. The motion to contribute the $10,000.00 passed on a 2 to 1 vote with Saffer opposed.

Likewise a contribution request from the Family Refuge Center passed on a 2 to 1 vote. The Commission did not grant the entire $10,000.00 request, but did agree to pay $2025.00 to cover the rent on the FRC’s facility in Marlinton.

The Commission ratified their contract with the Pocahontas County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for management of the county animal shelter. The contract includes a provision that the County will provide up to 7500.00 in matching funds for veterinary expenses.

County Emergency Services Director Melvin Martin gave the Commissioners a list of needed safety improvements at the old shoe factory in Marlinton, now home to Allegheny Recreation Center and the animal shelter. Costs for the upgrades could run well over $100,000.00. The Commissioners asked Martin to research different options to meet the requirements.

They also had the first official reading of the updated flood ordinance. The County is required to have at least one additional public reading prior to the November first deadline for county adoption.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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