Mohave County's Environmental Health fund could be ‘swept’

Patty Mead, director of Mohave County Health Department, makes a call to epidemiologist Anna Scherzer during Thursday’s Board of Health meeting for an update on the E. coli outbreak in Colorado City. Board Chairman Dr. Richard Hendrix looks on.

Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.

Patty Mead, director of Mohave County Health Department, makes a call to epidemiologist Anna Scherzer during Thursday’s Board of Health meeting for an update on the E. coli outbreak in Colorado City. Board Chairman Dr. Richard Hendrix looks on.

KINGMAN – The Mohave County Health Department’s $9.3 million budget for expenditures in 2018 includes about $500,000 in extra funds for Environmental Health that could be “swept” by the Board of Supervisors, director Patty Mead said Thursday.

The Environmental Health fund is being targeted by supervisors to help cover the county’s $2.8 million budget deficit.

Because the fees were collected for Environmental Health, they can be separated from the budget, Mead said. The budget includes $1.13 million in expenditures for Environmental Health.

“The Board of Supervisors may use that for their budget,” she said. “We said that’s okay because it’s from salary savings.”

Supervisor Jean Bishop asked Mead how much can be swept without hurting the health department.

Mead responded that she’d like to keep at least $100,000 for a “safety net.”

She said one part of her is taxpayer who wants to help the county, and the other part is health department director who wants to keep the money in her budget.

“We don’t want people to think we make a profit from restaurant fees. It’s a variety of things. It is a fee for service, so if at any time we need to, we can go back to the public and raise fees,” Mead said.

Accounts specialist Diane Schreiber said finances are one of the health department’s strengths. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency, how to do things cheaper and maintain the best service, and regularly evaluate staffing levels and job duties, she said.

“On the flip side, we have challenges recruiting and retaining qualified staff,” Schreiber said. “We consistently lose staff. We get them trained and they go elsewhere for more money.”

The county gets a lot of nutritionists who just graduated from college and need experience and training. Then they’re gone.

“That sounds like the sheriff’s department,” said Dr. Richard Hendrix, chairman of the health board.

Mead said the health department has about the same number of nurses as when she started there 25 years ago, while population has increased. She said the recent E. coli incident in Colorado City has “pushed us to the limit.”