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Thoughts on the proposed health department levy and Executive Drive building

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:51 PM

On June 29, both the Norwalk Reflector and the Sandusky Register published articles regarding the desire of the Huron County Health Department to move to a new location on Executive Drive.

Reasons for the move as provided by Tim Hollinger, HD Administrator, focused on the HD not being up to code. The article speaks to a lack of compliance with handicap accessibility and modern facility requirements. Without modifications the current HD would fail accreditation and no longer be able to offer services. The article speaks to the lack of privacy at the current facility and the desperate need to offer dental care.

The Register has twice reported the wrong location for the proposed move. The location is NOT next to Fisher-Titus Medical Center and the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (which are located on Shady Lane) but rather is a half-mile away at 48 Executive Dr. in primarily, residential neighborhood. Matt Hutton (formerly) of the Reflector got it right (co-owned newspapers should consider working together to properly inform voters). The Reflector/Register articles also make mention of Erie County Health Department's need to move and that the two counties have the possibility of pursuing a dental grant in conjunction with one another (again, working together a great idea).

My thoughts are this ... if both counties need to comply with the accreditation standards in order to keep their funding and both counties have a huge need for dental care why don't we "play nice together, save everyone some money and truly offer those in need the treatment and facilities that they so crave?" How ... let's pool our tax dollars, purchase facilities at the under-utilized outlet mall of U.S. 250 and operate a two-county HD. The cost of the services provided to patients could be split between the counties based on actual usage by their perspective residence. The dental clinic could utilize chair-side assistants from EHOVE (across the street from the outlet mall). This would provide a great training ground for these students and would address a need for the school that is looking to start a chairside dental assistant program (i.e. free help for the county great educational opportunity for the students).

The clinic could actually bill the dental treatment to Medicaid and very reasonably operate at a profit sufficient to pay a full-time dentist(s) and hygienist(s) to properly staff the facility. Again EHOVE students from the medical coding classes could aid in the coding of the claims to Medicaid (great experience). The doctors and the hygienists pay could be incentivized based on the profitability of the clinic (a way to keep the place running efficiently). Monies saved by the two counties sharing one space could be used to provide much needed transportation to the facility. Since this location is near the turnpike and Ohio 2 and right off of U.S. 250 it would be much easier for those from the outskirts of the two counties to find than either of the current locations. (Erie County is not just Sandusky and Huron County is not just Norwalk.) Obviously there would be details to work out and it would require that the two counties "play nice together", but the benefits to be reaped by patients as well as the taxpayers seem to be worth exploring the option.

Although there is no arguing that the HD needs and deserves better facilities, there are issues with the currently proposed path. Mr. Hollinger states it would cost just as much or more to remodel the existing 50 year old location. However, he wishes to purchase and renovate a 30 year old facility that will now provide another separate county building to maintain. After the 10 year levy to buy and renovate the Executive Drive building expires, we (voters and taxpayers) will get asked to "levy-up" for further repairs and operating expense of the then 40 year old building. Perhaps renovation of the existing building wouldn't be so bad in the long run.

Yet another option is adding on to the much newer Job and Family Services building a half-mile away on Shady Lane, where many people could possibly use the assistance of both county services in one stop and be within walking distance for the students of Norwalk High School.

Part two of this project is the proposed start of a dental clinic. This project seems headed for failure due to the fact that we are starting a dental clinic with no idea of how to run it ... Mr. Hollinger states "it's a breakeven clinic". Why? Efficiently run, it can and should make profit to stay away from future levies (taxpayer's pockets). He goes on to say that the clinic would be staffed by local dentists and hygienists on a part-time, volunteer basis. Part-time, volunteers do not fix the No. 2 problem on the needs assessment list. Mr. Hollinger states dentists of this county recognize this and support our efforts". How can this be, when it appears that only one dentist was consulted and he lives in Erie County? Don't spent $300,000+ to build a dental clinic prior to consulting the volunteers who are desired to man it.

Until other options are considered, I encourage taxpayers and voters of both Huron and Erie counties to reject the proposed levies. Expect more from your commissioners and tax-payer dollars.

Dr. Roger D. Stine, D.D.S., and his wife, Mrs. Denise Stine, C.P.A., live in Norwalk.

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