WARLEN RESPONDS TO FRICKER AND WOOD’S COMMENTS
In a letter this week, the director of the Platte County Health Department rejected a number of comments and positions made by two Platte County commission members last week.
At a Feb. 6 meeting, Scott Fricker and Dagmar Wood, two of three county commissioners, refused to sign clarifications on the deed of trust at the Platte City Health Department facility. Fricker said the property is owned by Platte County and not the health department. The commission brought the matter up, with Fricker saying he wanted the health department to “open up their books and meeting minutes and show us how and why this deal was put together from the beginning.”
In a letter to the county commission on Monday, Andrew Warlen, director of the Platte County Health Department, pointed out that the 1959 Health Department Property Act in Platte City lists the property as “Platte County, a political subdivision of the State of Missouri, and its successors, for the use and control of the Board of Health Center Trustees of Platte County, Missouri.
In his letter to the county commissioners, a copy of which was obtained by The Landmark via a Sunshine request, Warlen says: dissolved, the property would revert to the county. It was apparently a common practice at the time.
The real estate was purchased in 1959 for $6,000 by Robert L. Head and Stella Head.
Warlen points out that the health department paid for 100 percent of the engineering and construction costs of the current health department building, as well as all improvements and maintenance.
“It is my understanding that Platte County has not provided any form of consideration, financing, or other funds to operate, secure, maintain, or improve the Platte City building since 1960, which disproves any assumptions that Platte County, Missouri, has any form of ownership of the structure or land in question,” Warlen writes in his letter to the commissioners.
The Department of Health Board of Trustees finalized the purchase of a building at 7925 NW 110th St., Kansas City in Platte County in mid-April 2020. buildings in Platte City and Parkville.
The Platte City location at 212 Marshall Road is currently under contract to a prospective buyer. In the course of finalizing the closure, the provincial deed commission was asked to clarify the original deed.
The county commissioners, in a 2-1 vote with Joe Vanover casting the down vote, agreed to clarify the act and instead criticized the health department’s real estate plans and asked the health department to “open his books”.
Warlen said clarification of the act was being sought “in the hope that the matter will be dealt with as efficiently as possible and to avoid unnecessary cost to our taxpayers”.
In his letter, Warlen provides some background on the health department’s agreement to purchase the building on NW 110th Street. Warlen said the site was selected for purchase in late 2019 and that an agreement was entered into with the seller to purchase the property on January 31, 2020.
“The board of directors was then legally obligated to complete the sale if the terms were met. At the time of the execution, it was unknown what substantial impact COVID-19 would have,” Warlen said.
“Shortly after the shutdown, responding to COVID-19 became the Department of Health’s number one priority,” says Warlen, who took over as director of the department of health in January 2022 following the retirement of former director Mary Jo Vernon.
“This made it necessary to delay building improvements, moves and the sale of existing properties. These duties were resumed in late spring 2022. However, the newly purchased building was able to be used in its unimproved state, with more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccinations being administered at that location,” Warlen writes in his letter. to county commissioners.
Warlen also responded to the county commission’s request that the health department “open their books and meeting minutes.”
As a taxpayer-funded entity, the books and minutes of meetings of the Department of Health are publicly available and open to public scrutiny.
“This is and has always been done,” Warlen noted. In fact, the health department provides financial reporting to the county, the health director said.
“Each year, without any legal obligation to do so, the Department of Health regularly provides various financial reports to the county,” Warlen writes in his letter.
“The Department of Health is required to undergo an annual external financial audit and participate in audits performed by other agencies related to requirements for various grants and contracts,” Warlen said.
“Like the (county) commission, the Department of Health is subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law and is legally required to produce open records upon request. Open records such as meeting agendas, meeting minutes and financial reports are all available in accordance with the Sunshine Law, many of which are on our website,” she added.
Warlen goes on to detail the Health Department’s recent interaction regarding requests from County Commissioners Fricker and Wood.
“As an example of the Department of Health’s openness and responsiveness, President Commissioner Fricker and Commissioner Wood submitted requests for information in early January 2023. All three requests submitted were answered within 24 hours (one arrived on Sunday). Responses included responses to their questions, as well as the production of various documents including the 2021 financial audit, the deed of guarantee on the property at 7925 NW 110th Street, and the lease memorandum for 7925 NW 110th Street,” he said Warlen in his letter to provincial commissioners.
“Transparency and cooperation is always one of our goals,” said Warlen.
The medical director closed his letter to the commissioners by saying “please let me know if you need any further information to proceed with the signing of the guarantee deed. I look forward to continuing to work together to improve the lives and health of the citizens of Platte.”