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Council to vote on hospital board deal

January 29, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON - Huntington City Council members on Monday will vote to accept or reject an ordinance that would see them give up the council’s right to name people to the Cabell Huntington Hospital Board of Directors in exchange for $1 million.

They will be met with a rally beforehand by the Service Employees International Union District 1199, urging council members to vote against the ordinance. The union, which represents Cabell Huntington employees and supports workers at St. Mary’s who want to unionize, fears the ordinance would take away people’s voice in health care matters.

The hospital wants to have control over who serves on its 18-member board of directors as it works to integrate with St. Mary’s Medical Center, which it purchased in May 2018. It makes the combined medical network, known as the Mountain Health Network, the second largest in West Virginia.

If the ordinance is approved, the city would no longer name three people to serve on the hospital’s board in exchange for $1 million to the city’s general fund. Cabell County commissioners voted and approved a similar proposal in November 2018, agreeing to give up their right to appoint three members to the board for $1 million. That move is contingent upon what the city decides to do.

Cabell Huntington states the new agreement provides an opportunity to assure its board of directors is made of people who are knowledgeable about healthcare. The hospital also wants the appointments to appear free from political influence. The hospital is mandated to appoint people to the board under the same guidelines followed by city council members.

The union’s rally, titled “Don’t Let Mayor Steve Williams and Huntington City Council Sell Us Out,” is set to begin an hour before city council’s 7:30 p.m. start time.

Also during the meeting, council members will consider a resolution supporting second-phase funding for the skate park at the Harris Riverfront Park. Landcore Builders LLC of Milton recently won a bid to complete the construction for $220,528.

The second phase will build 2,500 square feet of new skateable surface, including a quarter pipe and a volcano. Work must be completed by June 30.

Council members will consider a resolution supporting a grant agreement between the city of Huntington and the Bloomberg Family Foundation. In October, Huntington was named as a winner of $1 million in the 2018 U.S. Mayor’s Challenge, which is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

In Huntington’s winning project, wellness coordinators will engage with first responders and develop training to improve mental health, attitudes toward substance use disorder and interactions with overdose victims. The goal is to combat “compassion fatigue,” which are feelings of depleted empathy in the face of overwhelming overdose calls.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.