Saratoga County is set to create a new director of environmental health position, a key step toward establishing a full-service health department that will take on many services now provided by the state.
The new position – earmarked with a salary range of around $100,000 a year – was recently approved by county subcommittees and will go up for full approval at the Aug. 17 county board of supervisors meeting.
Once approved, county officials will seek to hire someone to fill the position and help build out a new department within the county health agency to oversee environmental health programs. The new environmental health director will report directly to Saratoga County Commissioner of Health Dr. Daniel Kuhles as the county establishes a “full department of health.”
The county over time will take over restaurant and hotel inspections, which are currently conducted by the state Department of Health, as well as administer programs dealing with air pollution, water quality, sewage disposal, rabies, and other toxic risks. Pools will be inspected by the county and so will summer camps and other public facilities. The environmental health director will also advise county officials on a wide range of public health and environmental quality issues.
Due to its increase in population in recent years, Saratoga County must upgrade from partial county health services to a full-fledged county health department, under state law, providing for a wider range of services. County officials have been working with the state Health Department for months on the transition.
“Those are a varied range, from things that you may be familiar with like restaurant inspections to very technical engineering things like public water supplies,” Kuhles said at a recent county meeting, outlining some of the services the county will take charge of. “It’s really quite a gambit.”
Kuhles said he will work closely with the new environmental health director as they look to build out the department in a way that fits the needs of Saratoga County residents.
“This individual will be my right hand and your right hand in not only developing these programs but making sure they are tailored to Saratoga County,” Kuhles said.
The new director position will be just the first step in an expansion of the county health department that will also include the hiring of new engineers and health inspectors who will spend time in the field.
“There are many different levels of positions that will need to be identified and job descriptions procured and salary ranges set,” Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, who since May has been leading the county task force overseeing the transition to a full health department, said at a recent county meeting. “But this is the first step as we see it.”
Barrett in a recent interview said there was still no timeline for when new services would be provided through the county or when other new positions will be created, but he said the full transition is likely to take place over an extended period of time. Barrett said the new environmental health services could require the addition of dozens of new positions over time, and he said the costs and funding for the new services were still under study. County officials are working on the regulations and procedures that will be necessary to establish the new environmental health department.
“It’s a lot of work,” Barrett said earlier this week. “This is a huge undertaking. It won’t happen with a flip of the switch.”