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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

Findlay, Hancock health departments skeptical on merger

FINDLAY - Consultants hired to study the feasibility of merging the Findlay city and Hancock County health departments told county commissioners yesterday a merger could have several benefits, but commissioners questioned what they see as potential negatives.

Commissioner Emily Walton said "funding and housing would top the list" of concerns that would need to be resolved before a merger could be considered. The separate health departments currently are housed in small offices about eight blocks apart, neither big enough to expand.

Commissioner Ed Ingold said he was concerned about the possibility of a larger budget for a combined health department, a location for offices, and the potential loss of authority and involvement by county health board members.

Ken Kerik, a consultant with the National Association of Local Boards of Health in Bowling Green, said he has been collecting data to help address all of those issues since March and expects to complete the study by November.

He said a combined health department would offer some advantages, including full-time leadership, less duplication of efforts, improved eligibility for grants, and more accountability from a single agency.

The idea of merging the departments has been kicked around intermittently for years but was most recently resurrected by Findlay Mayor Tony Iriti.

Last year, the health departments were awarded a $16,000 grant from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation to help pay for a feasibility study and each department also contributed $2,000.

Hancock County is one of the only counties in northwest Ohio that still maintains separate health departments. Toledo and Lucas County merged health departments in 2000.

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