Health district cuts ties with physician
LISBON — After more than 40 years on the Columbiana County General Health District board, Dr. Jack Amato was not reappointed during the annual meeting of the advisory council on Monday night.
Fairfield Township Trustee Bob Hum and East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway made the motion and second to return Amato for another five-year term, but the motion failed by a vote of 13-8. Madison Township Trustee Wayne Chamberlain was among those who offered it may be time for someone new to fill that seat.
Health Commissioner Wes Vins pointed out the seat that Amato fills on the board is unique because he is the physician representative. Any replacement would need to be a physician. Vins was also concerned about leaving the health department without a physician on the board for any length of time.
Amato was not at the meeting, which was being held at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in the new Vaccination Complex where drive-up COVID-19 vaccines are being given by reservation each week.
County Commissioner Tim Weigle said the Ohio Revised Code gives the advisory council 30 days to make a decision on the board member appointment. Prior to the vote, Butler Township Trustee Tom Sanor questioned the need to vote on Amato’s reappointment right away, suggesting there was no harm in waiting out the 30 days and looking.
“I know Jack’s been a good guy and been around forever,” Sanor said. “He’s been around as long as I have … We don’t have to rush into it.”
Weigle offered to volunteer on a committee to screen and nominate a replacement for Amato. Three township trustees, Chamberlain, Sanor and West’s Dale Lowmiller, also volunteered for the committee, along with Lisbon Mayor Peter Wilson. Weigle suggested Amato should also assist in screening to help find a qualified person.
After Vins pointed out the county health board reorganizes at its next meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. March 17, the committee was given a quick date, March 15, to find a replacement. The advisory council scheduled another meeting at 6 p.m. that day, again at the fairgrounds. It would usually not meet until the next year.
In other matters:
— Weigle stepped down as the chairman of the advisory council and St. Clair Township Trustee Jordan G. Williams was named as the new chairman.
— Vins and other members of the Columbiana County Health Department staff answered questions about the coronavirus response, which Vins said has dominated their work over the past year. He reflected some of it has been “heartbreaking” with days around Thanksgiving with as many as 115 positives cases. Those working at the health department had to transition from the normal positions to meet the challenge and Vins said they have dealt with people learning they were positive, the family members of those positive, those who have lost a family member and those concerned about their jobs as they are forced to quarantine or close a business during the pandemic.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, we’ve learned a lot about our community and I have to tell you how impressed I have been with this community,” Vins said. “Every single thing that we’ve needed, this community has helped us with … Let me tell you my colleagues around the state haven’t had that.”
— The county health department is expecting 300 of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccines being shipped out this week. Although Gov. Mike DeWine announced the new 1-C group, which includes those 60 and older, law enforcement, funeral home employees and preschool teachers among others, Vins said we cannot begin to vaccinate anyone in that group until sometime next week because they have reservations for those 65 and older for the available dosed for this week.