Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 20, 2014

Mercer County Health Department dedicates up-to-date facility

GREEN VALLEY — Health personnel and volunteers worked for years to find the money needed to replace their outdated, unhealthy facility, but their efforts came to fruition Wednesday when they dedicated the Mercer County Health Department’s new, up-to-date facility.

The building replaces the old facility that was built on the same site in 1955, Mercer County Commission President Mike Vinciguerra told the guests gathered in the new structure’s lobby.

U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said the health department provides extremely valuable services to the community.

“In large part, the eradication of many infectious diseases across this nation is due to the dedicated persistence, meticulous head counting, and watchful eyes of the men and women of county and local health departments and boards,” Rahall said.

Melody Rickman, the health department’s former administrator, thanked everyone in attendance for their work and contributions toward making the new facility a reality. She recalled the days when personnel had to shift their workplaces in the old, poorly-insulated building when the seasons changed just to avoid getting too hot or too cold.

As many as 25 plastic buckets were kept ready to compensate for the leaking roof. These bad conditions, and urging from employees such as Doris Irwin, who kept volunteers going to Charleston to appeal for assistance, helped move the project forward, Rickman said.

“Now the job is yours, to keep it up, provide the services, and don’t let your guard down for a minute,” Rickman told the health department’s staff.   

Timm Boggess, chairman of the Mercer County Board of Health, said the facility was a new start for the health department. There were times when the project seemed to be “an unattainable dream,” but Melody Rickman and other supporters would not take no for an answer, he added.

“This is a new spring, a new beginning, for the health department,” Boggess said. He thanked his brother, Todd Boggess of ET Boggess Architects, and the Region I Planning and Development Council for their work on making the building a reality.

Administrator Susan Kadar thanked the Hugh I. Shott Foundation and the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., for the funding they provided and acquired for the new building. The old building was often a nightmare, but now the health department has a new, safe and clean facility, she stated.

Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, and a representative of the Shott Foundation, recalled a tour he took of the old building and how he came away “simply appalled.” He later told the foundation’s board of directors that the building housing the county health department, which had serious mold problems and other issues, was likely the unhealthiest place in Mercer County.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller all sent representatives offering their congratulations. Ann Barth, former state director for the late Senator Byrd, said he was a “stanch” supporter of research into pandemics and why they occur. His mother died in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

“He was a terrific advocate for health,” she said, recalling how he left his sickbed in order to vote for the Affordable Care Act.

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