A ten-year review of TOST with changes expected to be recommended based on citizen’s comments, was narrowly approved by a split Barry County Commission Tuesday.
Commission Chair Ben Geiger proposed the review at a cost of $6,500, saying their job as commissioners is to listen to the people’s experiences with TOST.
"This is not a referendum on the health department; this is not an initiative to put the health department on the hot seat, and it's not a referendum on the importance of protecting public health, it is just an exercise in good government, listening to the public,” Geiger said.
The recommendations would go to the Barry Eaton District Health Department’s six-member Board of Health, (three Barry County commissioners, and three Eaton County commissioners) with ways they could improve the unpopular regulation.
Voting to approve the proposal, effective immediately, were Geiger and Commissioners Dan Parker, Heather Wing and David Jackson. Commissioners Jon Smelker, Howard Gibson and Vivian Conner voted “no.”
For the reasoning behind the commissioners votes, see the article: “Why Barry County Commissioners voted the way they did.”
Geiger’s plan, leading to specific recommendations to the health board, would allot Aug. 1 to Sept. 30 for public comment about TOST on a new portal on the county website, approve a public listening session on the evening of Aug. 22 and a professional survey of randomly selected TOST participants.
Those making comments on the county web site can chose to keep their responses confidential.
The plan contains $5,229.69 for identified costs for the project and $ 1,250.31 for contingencies for up to $6,500 to pay for advertising, the survey, a facilitator at the public meeting, and refreshments at the meeting.
The responses would be evaluated in October and specific recommendations for changes in the TOST regulation will then be developed.//
Geiger, who is president of the health board, said he had informally talked to the rest of the board, but in response to commissioner’s comments, would ask them at their next meeting for consensus of support for the ten year review.
TOST, standing for “Time of Sale or Transfer,” is a Barry Eaton District Health Department regulation that calls for a department-certified evaluator to inspect on-site water and septic systems at the time of sale or transfer of property in Eaton and Barry counties. The department reviews the evaluations and orders corrections or replacement if a system is failing. Systems out of compliance must be repaired or replaced before the sale can be completed.
The TOST regulation is to identify and repair failing septic systems and defective water wells, protect the groundwater and the environment, acording to the health department.
Since shortly after it’s conception in 2007, the commission has heard citizens complaining the program was arbitrary, unfair, unnecessarily costly and being used to bring systems up to present day codes, if they are failing or not, contrary to the wording of the regulation.
Information on the BEHD website, www.barryeatonhealth.org/ includes a list of evaluators, evaluation sites, exemption forms, escrow agreement forms and the TOST regulation.