Further clarification needed for Commissioners letter

I am responding to the letter from the Washington County Commissioners published in the Marietta Times Nov. 16, titled “Commissioners take issue with article on drug rehab.”

The way the letter reads, it makes it sound like building modifications, building space, utilities, taxes, food services, laundry services, trash removal, and other services would be offered to Oriana House for $10,000 per month. If that were the case the proposed rehabilitation facility would have been up and running by now!

Building modifications were put out for bid and only one came back by the April 30, 2018 deadline, for $416,000. This was nearly twice what the architect had estimated, and above the Washington County Mental Health Board budget. We were allocated $333,333 to bring a detox center up quickly, in an existing space. We knew we needed to cut some things out, but were still waiting on an estimate on what it would take to lease the space. A rough estimate was first requested in late 2017, and no amount had been given yet.

On May 15 of this year, then Deputy Director Brent Phipps, board member Jim Raney, and I attended the meeting between the Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County Home. All three commissioners and County Home Director Jeff Campbell were in attendance. Director Campbell works under direction from the commissioners.

We informed everyone about the building modifications estimate, and we needed a lease amount to see if we could even make the project work there at the county home. After some back and forth, Director Campbell said $10,000 per month is what it would take to lease the available space. That amount did not include utilities, food, laundry, trash, and other! That was only for the space.

Trying in good faith to negotiate, Deputy Director Phipps countered with an offer of $5,000 per month, at which time Director Campbell said “That will be a cold day in hell.” Obviously, negotiations stalled at that point.

A lease term was still being worked on, but would have been most likely for an initial term of five years. Some quick math indicates five year lease at $10,000 per month is $600,000. That would have been free and clear to the County Commissioners, since they own the home. Renovations would have been paid for by the allocation mentioned before. All of the other expenses would have been billed and paid for separately by Oriana House. So, to sink $600,000 plus maybe $300,000 renovations into a building with likely a five year lease did not, and still does not, make sense to any person I know.

I understand covering costs and maybe making a little money on top of it, but the county home sits there nearly half empty. A chance to recover some of the utilities being used for vacant space would have been beneficial, along with selling food raised on the premises, and charging for laundry and linen services done in machines that are otherwise idle. Yes, there would be additional incremental costs for the services, but the county home could still come out ahead by selling those services at a reasonable rate to an interested buyer. But to still desire an additional $120,000 per year for vacant space isn’t just defraying costs.

Per the minutes of the meeting, a motion was made and carried to allow Jeff Campbell to negotiate a lease with my board. Also in the minutes “Jeff Campbell will provide Oriana House with proposed figures for meal, laundry, and maintenance services” further substantiating how those costs were separate from the lease for space only. Director Campbell has not contacted me since then. I contacted Jason Varney of Oriana House and he has not been contacted by Director Campbell either. So of course the board and Oriana House are still looking for a suitable location.

I just wanted to clarify and add additional pertinent information to the letter signed by all three commissioners.

David Browne

Executive Director, Washington County Behavioral Health Board