Clark County combines, cuts public health positions

Staffing moves will save nearly $500,000 this biennium

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Clark County commissioners voted Wednesday morning to consolidate two Clark County Public Health administrative positions and eliminate two other department positions, saving the county nearly $500,000 this biennium.

The commissioners — in their role as the Board of Health — unanimously approved a proposal to combine the public health director and county health officer positions into one position, health officer/administrator. The proposal also eliminated a vacant coordinator position and will eliminate an administrative assistant position scheduled to become vacant after a July 31 retirement.

The staffing changes will save the department about $490,000 in salaries and benefits this biennium, which ends Dec. 31, 2014.

The public health leadership team proposed the changes in response to pending and potential budget cuts, said Marni Storey, interim director of Clark County Public Health. The changes will save the department money without directly impacting program services, she said.

Commissioner Steve Stuart praised the leadership team for setting an example for the department, which has had staffing levels cut in half in recent years.

“You have shown imagination in being able to provide services with vastly fewer staff,” Stuart said.

The county’s public health director position has been vacant since April 1, when former director John Wiesman left the county to become Washington Secretary of Health.

Dr. Alan Melnick is the county’s health officer and will fill the new position, said Bill Barron, county administrator. The change is effective Jan. 1.

Melnick’s salary will remain the same in the new position, Barron said. His base pay in 2012 was $152,316.

Melnick also currently serves as the health officer for Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties, which pay a portion of his salary. The Jan. 1 implementation date will give Melnick and the local health department time to help the other counties recruit, hire and train a replacement, Storey said.

Once Melnick takes the helm, Storey will return to her position as deputy director of public health.