Trustee: Budget is ‘bad news’ for smaller health departments

FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP – Trustee Chairman Bob Hum said the governor’s budget, introduced in Ohio House Bill 59, spells “bad news” for smaller health departments like Columbiana County’s department.

During Thursday’s regular trustee meeting Hum said that along with costing the county $20,000 for its accreditation requirement, a cost that could be passed along to the townships, it will also cost residents with septic system issues after new rules become effective on Jan. 1, 2014.

“If your septic system is OK, it will be grandfathered in,” said Hum, who is also an attorney. “If anyone has any issues, they’ll need to get them fixed,” he said, explaining that as long as it functions it will approved.

If it isn’t, Hum saw trouble in the economics of bringing a residence up to compliance.

“You’re going to price people right out of their houses … they’ll just walk away from them … the new rules are coming,” he said, adding, “that’s one of the criticisms.”

Explaining that “all this is coming from the big cities” Hum said, “I’d rather deal with Columbiana County. We have a good health board. For small rural counties like us it’s nothing but bad news.”

Regionalization of grants is a big part of the mix and reducing the 125 local departments in all 88 counties into eight applicant groups is under discussion.

The Salem Health Department discussed the ramifications last month when Health Commissioner Richard Setty advised it of a memo to state legislators sent by Columbiana County Health Commissioner Wes Vins.

Vins said, “Mandatory accreditation would eliminate many smaller and poorer health departments and force regionalization resulting in a reduction in access to care for many families in need.”

Hum said the state wanted smaller, outlying areas to deal with people in Akron or Canton.

“Our board of health is excellent. They’re trying to eliminate the local boards of health – regionalization.”

No action was taken and in other business trustees will send a letter to its insurance carrier, the Ohio Township Risk Management Authority (OTARMA), distinguishing baseball field and playground property it owns and doesn’t own.

Road Supervisor Melvin Miller said some property belongs to the Crestview Baseball Association.

Trustees discussed upgrades including asphalt in areas and painting. Hum said that once it’s refurbished “we will provide coverage” and suggested sending a letter to OTARMA explaining the township doesn’t own everything out there “but when we replace it we will want coverage.”

Miller said his department has dealt with changing weather conditions and picked up another load of cold mix that has be used to fill bad spots and picked up a new leather belt for the drill press.

Trustees unanimously approved a purchase order for pipe and a catch basin from Quaker City Septic for $2,000 and Miller said he received a request for an open cut for a wood-built lodge, noting it will be hard to get boring equipment into the location.

“The only way is to OK an open cut,” he said and Trustee Barry Miner said the builder can send a letter with documentation and trustees will inspect the site.