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Belmont County Officials Explore New Health Department Building

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Belmont County Commissioner Jerry Echemann says Wednesday the commissioners are exploring the possibility of a new or renovated building for the Belmont County Health Department.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners took the first step Wednesday toward addressing lack of space at the health department.

They will advertise a request for design professional services for a new Belmont County Health Department building. The state of the current building has been an ongoing topic of discussion, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when staff are strained to meet the cascade of new responsibilities such as contact tracing and storing and administering vaccinations while continuing with regular duties.

“We’ve known for some time that the health department building is adequate at best,” Belmont County Commissioner Jerry Echemann said. “We’d like to, at some point, get them a new building. Their board has been asking for either a remodel of the existing building or a new building. We’re kind of leaning into something brand new for them.”

“It’s still in the very early stages,” Echemann said. “We’re finding out: What’s this going to cost? What kind of design should it be? … That’s just to set that process in motion. We’ll see where it goes.”

In answer to a question from Richard Hord of Martins Ferry, Echemann said a site for a new building has not been determined.

“We’ve discussed several locations,” Echemann said. “It will probably be centrally located. I don’t see it going along the (Ohio) river.”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton added that the department has requested a new building be located near the current one.

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul responded via text to the announcement.

“Our present building no longer meets ours or the public’s needs. We have extremely limited parking for the public at our present location. Also, we are unable to add programs or services for the public because of the limited space at our office. We are hopeful the commissioners are able to help us with this issue so (we) can meet the public’s needs,” Sproul texted.

Hord also inquired if the commissioners had made any progress in finding a replacement for outgoing Director of Belmont County Senior Services Dwayne Pielech, who will be stepping down and resuming work in the private sector. Echemann said the commissioners are about halfway through the process.

“There have been five interviews so far, and there may be a sixth,” Echemann said. “We’ll just pick who we think is the best.”

Dutton said they will continue to advertise for the position until it is filled.

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