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Proposed health levy would fund building

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:47 PM

A proposed levy that could be on the county-wide ballot would pay for the start of a dental clinic as well as a new location for the health department.

The Huron County General Health District is seeking to get a 10-year, nonrenewable 0.3 mill levy on the ballot, which would generate $279,000 per year for a total of $2.79 million. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $9.19 annually.

More than $1.4 million of revenue from the levy would pay for a new location at 48 Executive Drive for the health department, said administrator Tim Hollinger.

The new location is necessary because of a change in Ohio law. Each local health department must be accredited by the Ohio Department of Health which means it must have modern features and be handicap accessible, among other requirements. If the health district failed to pass accreditation it would no longer be able to offer its services or immunization program.

"The reason this is coming is they want to change the image of public health. It is not a step down in medical care from a private physician or hospital," Hollinger said. "Is public health giving the same level of care to the poor? That's the driving force behind this. You are not going to see any health department fight this. We want to make sure we're giving the same level of care."

The Executive Drive location will cost about $1.1 million and then need at least $180,000 in renovations. However, Hollinger said it would have cost just as much if not more to remodel the existing location in the Huron County Administration building to meet the state's accreditation requirements. In addition, services would have been disrupted during that process and another county agency would have needed to move out of the building.

Erie County's health department also is moving into a new location, but its new building will cost $5 million.

"We're not looking for a pie in the sky, tons of room situation. We are trying to be very frugal about what we're looking for," Hollinger said, saying the new location would be "modern, not fancy."

Of the remaining money that would be generated by the levy, some would be invested to generate interest for additional capital improvements and to maintain state standards.

But $300,000 would be used to start a dental clinic.

"Dentists of this county recognize this and support our efforts," Hollinger said. "Most people recognize it it was No. 2 on a needs assessments for what is the greatest need for this county."

In a county of about 60,000, there are only 22 dentists, Hollinger said. The clinic would provide low cost dental care 75 percent primarily for children with Medicaid and about 25 percent for adults. It would be staffed by local dentists and hygienists on a part-time, volunteer basis and would start with three chairs.

Without a new location, there would not be room for a dental clinic, so the health department is tackling two needs at one time.

"It's a break-even clinic, we would make no profit margin, just an attempt to break even," Hollinger said. "We'll start out with cleaning teeth and filling cavities and go from there."

Aquatic center levy

The city plans to place a 0.7 mill renewal levy for the aquatic center on the November ballot.

The levy, which currently costs the owner of a $100,000 home $12.24 per year, generates about $145,000 to $150,000 in annual revenue for the aquatic center. The renewal will not cost taxpayers any additional money.

The remainder of the center's $810,000 budget in 2007 comes from fees. The levy has been in place since 1993 and has been renewed twice.

"It was to help pay for the maintenance of aquatic center," said finance director Diane Eschen.

It will not technically expire until next year, but Eschen said it will be on the ballot a year early in case it does not pass, so the city can place it on the 2008 ballot if necessary.

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