PRINCETON — Officials with the Mercer County Board of Health got some very good news during Tuesday’s board meeting. An official with the Shott Foundation announced the organization approved a $500,000 grant over two years to help make a new home for the health department.

John Shott, of the Shott Foundation, said the charitable foundation would like to see a long-term, feasible solution by the end of the foundation’s calendar year, rather than using the money to patch up the building for a few years at a time. He hoped board members would find some sort of solution to building woes, from building a new structure to renovating the present one. He said the foundation would cooperate and make the grant a challenge or matching grant, if board members wanted.

The Mercer County Health Department building has been in need of repairs for some time, board members said. Officials from the community weighed in during the meeting on how other funding could be found.

Norris Kantor said the grant from the Shott Foundation was a large step in the right direction. He discussed meeting with officials in Congressman Nick Rahall’s office to find funding and possibly renting unused portions of the building to other agencies. He also suggested applying for a Farmer’s Loan or seeking grant monies from the state economic development groups.

Melody Rickman, administrator for the health department, said she would look into Region I funding and help write a grant if needed.

Former Bluefield Mayor Robert “Bob” Perkinson said the present is the best time to move toward a structural solution.

“Part of the mission established is to have adequate services for the community,” he said. Perkinson said space for state agencies could generate income through rental payments.

Board members voted to stop the practice of having the health department conduct home loan inspections. Rickman said employees have to make several trips at times for the one-time, $70 fee, and it takes time away from other responsibilities and inspections.

Board member Kathy Wides said the practice is a “money loser” for the department and isn’t by the state mandated. Staffing issues and the cost were two reasons Rickman and Wides recommended stopping the practice. Officials with the health department will still check on sewer and septic systems if problems arise, Wides said.

“This will make us more efficient,” Wides predicted.

— Contact Mark Blevins at

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