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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Kellyton Town Council, attendees heard from representatives with the Alabama Department of Public Health, or ADPH, and learned more about progress being made to reopen the Coosa County Health Department.
Tim Hatch, director for the East Central District of ADPH, and James Hardin, assistant district administrator, were both present for the meeting to share information and answer questions.
Councilmember Donna Keel and Mayor Johnny Sharpe were not present for the meeting, but all other members were present, with Mayor Pro Tem George Camp presiding over the meeting.
Hatch said that, after numerous months of planning and working, he was pleased to announce that a health department will once again be opening in Coosa County.
He reviewed information on the history of the county’s health department, saying that the county’s health department was closed in 2017 because of lack of funding and other problems.
However, once COVID-19 hit and people were being encouraged to receive vaccines at their local health departments, it was brought to the ADPH’s attention that Coosa County does not have a facility. Instead, since the department’s closure in 2017, residents had to visit health departments outside of the county for assistance.
Hatch noted that Coosa County EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson was instrumental in this process, saying that he had a great deal to do with them relocating in the county.
Hatch explained that they have secured a building and will be subleasing a portion of the building from Accordia Health in Rockford, meaning it will be located where the former health department was located.
Further, Hatch said that they have also already hired the staff and purchased equipment, medications and furniture. He explained that as of this time they are waiting on internet and phone service before opening, adding that they cannot use Accordia Health’s internet service because of HIPPA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, regulations.
Town Clerk Karen Keel asked if the health department would also provide social workers and mental health treatment. Hatch said that they would be offering both of those and will be working with Accordia to help serve people better.
Hatch further stated that he is looking forward to getting the office open to help provide needed services to area residents without citizens having to leave the county to obtain those services.
He explained that once the office is open for service a full-time staff will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Hatch added that the department will most likely be scheduled to handle environmental issues on Mondays and Fridays, have WIC days on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to have nurse or clinic days on Wednesdays. However, he said this is a potential schedule and that it could change slightly.
Hatch said that once everything is ready they will hold an open house and a grand opening, adding that he would like for each municipality to have representation for the open house.
He said they are also looking forward to working closely with the communities and the school system once the health department is reopened in Coosa County.
In other business, EMA Director Hutcherson also addressed the council to provide information and updates. He stated that he had completed the paperwork and inspection of the Kellyton Civic Complex and finalized everything, making it the county’s first Safer Place.
Hutcherson mentioned that he hopes other areas will also get on board and establish Safer Places in their communities.
Having this finalized establishes the complex as an alternative place for area residents to go in case of inclement weather. While it is not an official storm shelter, it is a possible safer place than a mobile home or other types of homes and locations during storms.
Being a designated Safer Place removes any liability from the Town of Kellyton, but gives citizens the opportunity to decide whether to go to the complex should they feel unsafe at home during severe weather.
In other business, as reported previously, at last month’s meeting the council approved the use of some of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds to purchase equipment needed for the Kellyton ambulance service for a total not to exceed $20,000.
Those funds were to be used to purchase an automated CPR device and an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
However, Fire Chief Jerry Sewell met with Clerk Keel regarding the purchase of that equipment and informed her that he was able to find a cheaper automated CPR machine that would save the town some money. He also said that the department has a need for additional backboards because of losing so many when patients have to be airlifted, explaining that once patients are loaded into the helicopter the department does not get those backboards returned.
Therefore, it was decided to bring the matter back before the council to consider purchasing additional supplies needed by the ambulance service. After discussion the council unanimously approved purchasing the needed equipment as discussed last month, as well as other necessary equipment, not to exceed the $20,000 that was originally designated for the expenditure.
Also regarding old business, Dennis Hill, chair of the Coosa County Animal Shelter, addressed the council last month to present information and asked the council to consider making a monetary donation to help fund the shelter.
At last week’s meeting it was reported that Hill had sent a note to the town thanking the council for its consideration. Mayor Pro Tem Camp suggested that each council member could be thinking of what they would like to see the town do to help support the shelter.
He added that maybe at next month’s meeting the town could make a decision to move forward with its support for the shelter. The council voiced agreement, and it is hoped that the council will have an idea in mind at the next meeting.
Clerk Keel also reported that she had received a plaque from the Upward Sports League with a thank you card letting the council and mayor know how much the league appreciates the town for allowing it to use the facilities to hold practices during the recent basketball season.
It was noted that overall the season was a success and that several children participated in the league. The town voiced that it was thankful they had a great and successful season.
It was also reported that plans are continuing to move forward with this year’s Christmas Celebration. The event will be held from 5-8 p.m. December 3 at the Kellyton Civic Complex, and the town encourages everyone to start making plans to attend this year’s event.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Kellyton Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. August 2.