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County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

SALISBURY — After the Rowan County Board of Health approved changes to the health director job description during a meeting Tuesday night, it will proceed with advertising for applications.

Alyssa Harris has been serving as interim director since Nina Oliver resigned in February to take a similar position in Carteret County. The updates to the job description removed antiquated language, including the use of words like “subordinate.”

“We tried to bring it in to modern times,” Health Board Chair Dari Caldwell said.

The description was also updated to better reflect the responsibilities of the director and establish expectations for the job, including how the person will interact with the county and other agencies.

“We took a lot of feedback from folks who had frustrations in the past of really wanting to make sure that our health director was engaged in the community, that our health director was participating collaboratively with other health organizations and other organizations across our county and that we had a very symbiotic relationship with the rest of the county,” Caldwell said. “We tried to work some of the wording of that into what you see here.”

To craft the updated description, input was received from retired public health director Fred Pilkington, who was hired as a consultant by the Health Department last month. Pilkington has been examining the structure of the entire Health Department and has been conducting ongoing interviews with staff members and stakeholders in the community.

“(Pilkington) has engaged with us as our consultant to look at not only the health director role, but to look at how our department is structured internally, what different departments we have within the Health Department and how they’re staffed and if we have the manpower we need,” Caldwell said.

Pilkington encouraged the Board of Health to move forward with advertising for the position of health director.

“If we can find someone who can do all of these things, we would be golden,” Caldwell said.

After the motion was unanimously passed approving the new description, Caldwell said she would reach out to Rowan County Human Resources Director Kelly Natoli to have the job posted today.

In other meeting business:

• After a presentation from Environmental Health Supervisor Adrian Pruett, the Board of Health approved changes to the department’s fee schedule.

Pruett said the department has been in need of an updated fee schedule for some time and that the new fees would allow Rowan County to remain competitive with adjoining counties.

To formulate the new or altered fees, which are for everything from new septic tank permits to seasonal pool permits, Pruett examined the fees charged by 12 nearby counties (Cabarrus, Catawba, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Randolph, Stanly, Union and Yadkin) and averaged them together.

“Everything that I’m proposing is trying to get it in line with averages of the other counties,” Pruett said. 

Although many of Rowan County’s fees changed, Pruett elected not to implement a fee for septic repairs because he didn’t want to discourage people from getting those fixed when there is a problem.

“I thought about charging for them, but out of the gate there were several overwhelming no’s and that was one of them,” Pruett said. “Everybody felt that it would increase the probability of people wanting to fix their system.”

Pruett also introduced a compounding fee that will be charged to applicants who do not have their site ready when a county inspector visits. For each additional visit it takes to perform an inspection due to the applicant’s negligence, an additional $25 penalty will be charged.

Along with approving the new fees, the Board of Health approved a motion to no longer waive fees charged by the county to applicants who use private soil scientists to perform inspections instead of county staff. The fee was waived because the county was behind on performing inspections. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will have to approve the reinstatement of the fees.

• Caldwell said she is optimistic that the Board of Health will be able to fill its vacant board seat soon. She said the county has received several applicants. Commissioners will likely appoint a new board member during their meeting on Monday.

• June Miller, an office supervisor, spoke during the meeting about the Health Department’s efforts to prepare for Medicaid transformation, a statewide change to the way Medicaid services are provided. The transition, from fee-for-service to managed care, will begin on July 1. Miller said it would be a difficult task to prepare for the change, particularly when many of the Health Departments staff would be helping with vaccine distribution. Commissioner Judy Klusman, a board member, said she would speak with Caldwell further about ways to help the Health Department with manpower at vaccine clinics to free up staff to help with the Medicaid transformation.

• Harris said she expects the county’s vaccination numbers to start to taper off since vaccines are becoming readily available through other sources and the county has already vaccinated many of the older adults who are at higher risk and more willing to be vaccinated.

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