Ten years ago, the Barry Eaton District Health Department set a regulation mandating inspection of on-site sewer and water systems and repair or replacing those deemed failing before selling or transferring property in Barry and Eaton counties.
It has drawn many complaints from the public since its inception.
A proposal from Barry County Commission Chair Ben Geiger to review the regulation at a cost of $6,500 for a public meeting, advertising and a survey to develop improvements, brought a response from every commissioner, a former commissioner and the public. What follows is a condensation of commissioner’s reasons for their votes, pro and con.
Commissioner Vivian Conner: “You want to spend money when we don’t know it we can do anything. We could do this and the board (of health) can say no. We’ve been listening for 10 years and they wanted it changed…things do need to be changed…I’m leaning toward a (separate) Barry County Health Department.”
Commissioner Dan Parker: “What we are saying is that the health department needs a Dale Carnegie course…but they have to see it needs to be changed… the money would be worth it to me to get the latest up-to-date information, conduct a professional survey with random sampling and some from the health department.”
Commissioner Heather Wing: “We need to have a system to what we’re doing to our lakes. The time of sale is the biggest problem. Houses are not being sold, houses are not being bought. They are manipulating the property owners rights. Our constituents are not being listened to…get the numbers--the health department runs on numbers. “
Commissioner Howard Gibson: “We’ve heard from the people; no one likes it. It’s a waste of money. It’s not a bad regulation, it’s bad how they administrated it. We should go out on our own, modify it and do what we want.”
Commissioner Jon Smelker: “I’m not fond of spending money…if we do it, we should ask, ‘Should we have a Barry County Health Department?’ We’ve lost control of our health department. Once we get one Barry County department, then we decide.”
Commissioner David Jackson: “Review is good, if spending money meets our end goals. I favor meeting to hear the public, so I’m in favor of going forward. I’m not sure a professional survey will get us the results we want; it’s important to hear all sides. I’d like to limit the money somehow…is there an alternate plan?”
Commissioner Ben Geiger said after the meeting: "The plan approved today is all about listening. The feedback Commissioners receive on TOST experiences will show what's working, and what isn't working for our residents. While this regulation plays a role in protecting public health, we still have duty to listen, and to learn how it is impacting taxpayers." //
And, the public said:
Citizen Jack Miner: “Why would you spend money on what you already know, unless you want to make it look like you are fulfilling a campaign promise? Miner urged commissioner to consider a standalone health department for Barry County, discuss dropping TOST with Eaton County officials, develop a policy with mandatory guidelines of all aspects of TOST and insist health department enforcement match the policy.
Citizen Bob Vanderboegh said commissioners should compare TOST against other counties regulations, pointing out Barry County already has health and nuisance rules. He said TOST pits lake owners against rural residents and contended health department actions are based on faulty numbers. “They said it would create jobs. It has, and it has cost the public a lot of money.”
Former Commissioner Jim Dull: “I sat in the health board for two years; Ben said there were changes; they didn’t cure any problems. We had resolutions from the Farm Bureau and Barry County Veterans, all they got was lip service…it’s $6,500 on another study that goes nowhere.”