Barry County Commissioners today voted to repeal TOST by a unanimous vote. Commissioner David Jackson was absent. One step remains if the regulation is to be rescinded, a vote to repeal by the Eaton County Board of Commissioners on March 21.
The controversial Barry Eaton District Health Department requirement mandates inspection of on-site water and sewer systems in both counties, and repair or replacement if they are found to be failing before the sale of property can be finalized.
The Barry Eaton District Health Department is controlled by the Board of Health (BOH) which is made up of three commissioners from each county. Commissioners Ben Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker are from Barry; Commissioners Blake Mulder, Jane Whitacre and Joseph Brehler represent Eaton.
In this article, the first of three parts on why officials voted the way they did, Jackson spelled out his reasoning at a Feb. 28 public hearing by the (BOH) before voting to start the process to end the 10-year-old rule. The other two parts of the series are the opinions of BOH members Whitacre and Brehler, who voted to keep the regulation. //
“I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to attend tonight’s meeting and voice their thoughts on the Time of Sale regulation. When our citizens participate in government, everyone wins. Thank you.
“What I hope everyone here tonight can realize is that we are all on the same side. Every member of the board of health in both Barry & Eaton counties all want clean safe water for drinking and recreation. We all want wells that are safe for our families and septic systems that work property and don’t pollute our lakes and streams. We all want programs and policies that protect our environment.
“What many in attendance don’t realize is that for as long as the T.O.S.T. regulation has been enacted (10 years), there has been a constant flow of complaints and criticism about the expense, the heavy handedness, the delay in property sales, and the issue of your health department not allowing you to sell your property without their permission, until you pass a well and septic inspection.
“Our health department, which has always been a great customer service organization, took on the role of an enforcement agency, seeming to many to now be working against the very citizens they work so hard to protect.
“The many great things our health department does has been overshadowed by one program. We have tried to fix TOST, we have tried to move TOST to an optional or voluntary program, but TOST is a regulation.
“Regulations are not optional, just like speed limits are not suggestions, they are laws. After years of ongoing review and debate, it is clear to me that TOST has become a block to innovative, forward thinking ideas to protect our environment.
“Although TOST is a way to evaluate onsite water and septic infrastructure, it is perhaps the slowest possible method in doing so.
“With the limited number of homes that sell each year in Barry & Eaton counties, we are looking at a multi-generational evaluation process that in reality is a turtle for environmental protection. I believe we can do better.
“My vote tonight to repeal the TOST regulation is not a vote against our environment or against clean water. It’s a vote to close one chapter and start a new one.
“It’s a vote to start again with clear, forward thinking ideas and a fresh look at some of the best program on a state and national basis for protecting our water resources.
“We need program & policies that respect both the pocket books and the property rights of our citizens. We now live in an era where inspections are being driven by banks, realtors and home buyers, not by the health department.
“It’s rare that a bank or realtor would allow a client to buy a property without an inspection. We have trained, certified professional evaluators for onsite well & septic inspections available to all citizens of Barry & Eaton counties.
“I believe we can build a better mouse trap, but it’s nearly impossible to do so when all the focus remains on the current mouse trap called TOST.
“Again, we want the same things clean water, safe water, protections of our environment. I believe every commissioner on this board will continue to work towards that goal.
Thank you again for your well thought out comments regarding the TOST regulation.”