County develops environmental health program
A staffing reorganization is underway within Columbia County in an effort to assemble an in-house environmental health department.
Currently, the county contracts with the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County for most of its environmental and public health services, like restaurant and hotel inspections.
By next year, the foundation will no longer provide environmental health inspection services. That means the county will develop its own environmental health program, overseen by the public health department.
"We've been contracting with the Public Health Foundation for our drinking water program and food, pool, and lodging inspections," Michael Paul, director of the county's Public Health Department, explained. "We still have a contract with the foundation, so when the contract runs out, the county will be responsible for [those services.]"
County commissioners met with Paul and the county's human resources director, Jean Ripa, last Wednesday, June 6 to talk staffing and logistics.
The new in-house department will be a three-person team, with one employee already working for the county under Land Use Services.
The other two positions are scheduled to be filled before the end of the year, with one already announced.
A job posting for a full time environmental services specialist trainee posted by the county Monday indicates applicants have until July 3 to apply.
"It's really a reorganization, so the environmental health specialists will all work together in the same program, all employed by the county," Paul noted.
While the Public Health Foundation will still handle the county's communicable disease programs, as well as maternal and child health programs, inspection services related to environmental health will now shift over to the county.
Because the environmental health positions were already being funded by the county through a contract, Paul said he expects minimal financial impact to the county with the new hires.