03/23/12 — Board of Health targets garbage

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Board of Health targets garbage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 23, 2012 1:46 PM

Whether it's the arrival of a new health director in a few weeks, or patrons coming to the Health Department for services, the Board of Health said it's important to create a good first impression.

But finding things like cigarette butts, chewing gum and litter at the building's entrances isn't the way to do it.

"We're running a health facility," said board member Dr. Allan Harvin, who made the observation at Wednesday's meeting. He pointed out that one would not expect to find such things outside the hospital, and the same should hold true at the Health Department.

"That's been one of my concerns for a while," agreed Dr. Kim Larson, board chairwoman. "We would all like for it to look clean, inviting and welcoming. It's also a historic building, which we should respect and be proud of."

This is not the first time the issue has been raised.

A few years ago, the department designated smoking areas at the building's entrances. In 2009, it was declared a tobacco-free campus, with signs announcing the policy indicating no smoking areas within 50 feet of the building.

Back in August, the board discussed housekeeping and maintenance concerns that could become potential health hazards throughout the nearly 100-year-old former county hospital building. Among the areas cited by staff were worn and stained carpeting in clinic areas, insects in bathroom stalls and an undetermined odor in the elevator.

County officials responded to the claims, showing up at September's board meeting and later offering to make a few changes and recommendations. One reason there had been hesitation to take action initially was the anticipated future move of the Health Department into a new facility.

Since a target date for the relocation has not been determined, officials offered in the interim to replace flooring in some areas.

At this week's meeting, the focus was on the external areas. A new health director, Davin Madden, currently health director in Pamlico County, is due to arrive April 9.

But on a daily basis, the board members said, it is important to have a clean and healthy environment.

Ken Stern, administrative officer, said he had spoken with the county's interim director of facilities, John Williams, about the concerns and was told maintenance personnel service the Health Department once a week, usually on Friday, when county offices are closed.

It's difficult, though, to police cigarette butts and litter, he said.

"People smoke closer than (50 feet of the building)," he told the board. "I don't know how it's being enforced.

"With the amount of folks coming in every day, it's really hard to enforce that."

Stern said he had learned that the county intends to install permanent trash bins around the parking lot, and hopes that "maybe people can take a couple extra steps" to dispose of waste.