GRAFTON, W.Va. — Officials with the Grafton-Taylor Health Department are examining their options moving forward after a one-time $2 million levy to help construct a new facility failed during last week’s election.
“We’re definitely still at a disadvantage, but we’re no worse off today than we were this time last week,” Administrator Boyd VanHorn said.
The levy, which needed 60 percent to pass, finished with only 51 percent, a number that VanHorn said was both disappointing and encouraging.
“We’re disappointed in the fact that we’re still in an overcrowded, old facility, but we’re very jubilant in the fact that a majority of the voters of Taylor County did express their support,” he said.
Chuck Duckworth, president of the Friends of the Grafton-Taylor Health Department, said he, too, was disappointed by the levy’s failure to pass.
“Candidly, we failed to provide enough value in our proposal to gain the support of at least 226 more voters,” he said. “The need for more space and better working conditions has not gone away, but we will roll up our sleeves and try to come up with an answer for our medical professionals.”
A renewal of an excess levy to continue the operation of the Grafton-Taylor Health Department passed with very strong support, with roughly 72 percent of the county in favor of the renewal.
“The Friends of the Grafton-Taylor Health Department are thankful and appreciative of the overwhelming support of the continuation of our services levy,” Duckworth said. “Your 72 percent approval demonstrates your belief and trust in our people and the services that our department provides on a daily basis to the citizens of this great county.”
While VanHorn said he certainly would’ve preferred to see both levies pass, the excess levy is most vital in that it allows the department to provide needed services.
“The fact that the other levy didn’t pass is certainly in no way a rebuke,” VanHorn said. “It’s actually a vote of confidence. I’m thinking a lot of politicians are wishing for a 51 percent approval rating, and that’s what we received. It’s just that a higher standard has to be met to pass a levy like this.
“I still see it as a victory, just not a big enough victory to supply us with a new facility.”
Now, VanHorn will pull two committees together — the health department’s building committee and the Friends of the Grafton-Taylor Health Department — to evaluate alternative plans.
“The alternatives would be running the bond again, maybe with a different design, looking for a separate, different facility that may already be available somewhere in the county, or even maybe perhaps renting or leasing or purchasing a satellite facility that would house part of our services and the remainder could stay here at this building,” he said.
But the fact remains that the current Taylor-Grafton Health Department is not compliant for any future services, VanHorn said.
“For instance, our behavioral health services,” he said. “We just received licensure to operate behavioral health, and it’s contingent upon certain improvements that have to be made, safety improvements from the Fire Marshal’s Office, that have to be made on this building that are not going to be very cost effective to make.”
Additionally, the department begins school-based health clinics this fall, and while a majority of those operations will be done within the schools themselves, the Taylor-Grafton Health Department will still have to provide housing for administrative services to the program.
Thus, officials continue to search for ways to provide those services while having the space to do so.
“The building is important, but supporting our people and providing vital services to this community is first priority,” Duckworth said.