Health Right Calls For CDBG Funding

WHEELING – Officials at Wheeling Health Right on Tuesday renewed their call for City Council to restore Community Development Block Grant funding for the South Wheeling clinic this year, saying some of their patients cannot live without the medication it was used to provide.

Mike Maestle, vice president of the clinic’s board of directors, made the appeal during a council meeting – the second time since November a Health Right board member has appeared before council members to ask for their consideration. His remarks come as the city prepares to decide how to allocate an as yet unknown amount of CDBG funding it will receive next fiscal year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I’m here because we need your help. … These funds are used to provide medication to our patients,” said Maestle. “This is life-sustaining medication for some of our patients.”

Maestle said Health Right is asking for $20,000, or $1,000 more than it received before the funding ceased at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission – funded entirely through CDBG – has voted to submit a budget request for almost $93,000, or about $27,000 more than it received for the current year.

Maestle said Health Right serves about 7,000 Wheeling residents – about one in four – and noted 70 percent of its patients have jobs but are unable to afford insurance or medical care. The average yearly cost of health care and medication for each client at the clinic is $75.

A family of four can receive their needed health care and medication for only $300 per year, according to the clinic’s website.

In October, Mayor Andy McKenzie shared with council a letter from Health Right Executive Director Kathie Brown asking officials to reconsider how they distribute the federal funds.

At that time, City Manager Robert Herron said if council were to begin funding those agencies with CDBG once again, they likely would have to eliminate funding for the city’s Human Rights Commission because Wheeling’s annual entitlement amount has steadily declined in recent years. McKenzie, Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey, Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge and Councilman Don Atkinson all indicated during that meeting that they would strongly consider the request.

According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules, only 15 percent of a city’s CDBG entitlement can be allocated for public services – the rest must go toward capital projects such as demolition, paving and building repair. For the current fiscal year, only the Human Rights Commission, the city-owned Nelson Jordan Center and directed police patrols in East Wheeling and on Wheeling Island received funding.

In other business, council amended its agenda to add an ordinance calling for the purchase of four Ford Interceptor police cruisers from Doan Ford of Belmont, which submitted the low bid at $119,448. Other bidders included Robinson Automotive Group of Triadelphia, Elm Grove Dodge and Stephens Auto Center of Danville, W.Va.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger has requested the one-time purchase of cars in addition to the five new cruisers City Council buys each year as the new practice of single-officer patrols means more miles logged on the existing fleet. Outfitting the cruisers with light bars, radios, cameras and related equipment would be a separate expense, bringing the total cost of the four cars to about $183,000. But Herron noted such equipment can be transferred to other cars as those ones are taken out of service.

After Tuesday’s first reading, council will vote on the cruiser purchase at its next meeting Feb. 19.

Council also voted to accept several state grants under the Governor’s Community Participation Program, including $14,400 for an ice/floor covering project at WesBanco Arena; $9,600 for the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling; $7,200 for playground equipment at the future J.B. Chambers Recreation Park in East Wheeling; $7,200 for renovations at the Capitol Theatre; and $4,800 for fireworks at the city’s statehood sesquicentennial celebration in June.