By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Nov. 6, 2013 — Elected officials and citizens in the western portion of Carter County are sharply critical of a decision made by the Little Sandy District Health Department to close its Olive Hill location.
“I’m against this and am going to do everything in my power to keep those doors open,” said Carter Judge-Executive Charles Wallace.
The department’s board of directors voted in favor of closing the facility in a special meeting Monday night.
Wallace is a member of that board but could not attend the special meeting due to a prior engagement.
He says he had no advance knowledge of the board’s intention to close the facility and was not informed about the decision until Tuesday, when a health department employee relayed the news to him.
“The west end has been let down long enough. These people will not have access to health care if this facility closes,” Wallace added.
Olive Hill Mayor Kenny Fankell also weighed in on the board’s decision, expressing his frustration.
“I’m highly upset. Everyone in this county pays these health department taxes. I have a commitment not only to the City of Olive Hill, but to the people of western Carter County to oppose this,” said Fankell.
“I’ve asked the Fiscal Court for a full investigation of the health department budget,” the mayor added.
Citizens on the western side of the county also were taken aback by the news. The public response to the board’s decision has been overwhelmingly critical.
“They really need to re-think this. Olive Hill has had enough economic downfalls. A lot of people can’t afford to drive all the way to Grayson for health care, not to mention the people who work in that office who will be laid off,” said John Steagall, owner of John’s Garage in Olive Hill and an officer of the Chamber of Commerce.
It seems that very few persons were aware of Monday night’s special meeting or that closing the Olive Hill branch was being considered.
Interim Director Paula Thornberry confirmed Wednesday that notices regarding the special meeting had not been sent to the news media.
“The meeting was called on such short notice that the information was posted on a bulletin board here,” said Thornberry.
Kentucky Open Meetings Law requires that news outlets be notified at least 24 hours in advance of any meeting conducted by a public body.
The Little Sandy District Health Department is a public body because of its taxing authority.
The next regular meeting of the health board is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the district office in Grayson. It is open to the public.
Joe Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 286-4201.