UPDATE: The Barry Eaton District Health Board will meet Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the Hastings office where a Barry County Commissioner will move to rescind TOST.
TOST is a joint health department regulation that mandates inspection and correction of any defects in on-site wells and septic systems before a property owner can sell or transfer property in Eaton and Barry County. Barry County Commissioners Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker and Eaton County Commissioners Joe Brehler, Blake Mulder, and Jane Whitacre are Board of Health members.
“On Thursday, I will ask the Board of Health to vote on whether to retain the TOST Regulation, and if not, to set a timeline for taking it off the books,” Geiger said. “I and the other two Barry County commissioners believe it is time to resolve this long standing conflict, and believe it is our responsibility as county leaders to protect the rights of property owners while maintaining our responsibly to protect the environment.
“As long as it is on the books, the TOST Regulation is an obstacle to change. We will only see a brighter future when we resolve to break from the past,” Geiger said.
BDHD Health Officer Colette Scrimger released a statement this evening:
“The Board of Health Agenda for this Thursday has been revised at the direction of Board Chair Geiger to include a decision on whether or not the Board wants to retain the TOST regulation. TOST has been a topic of conversation and deliberation for the board over the last several years. It has also been subject to intense public scrutiny and controversy. If the Board decides to initiate the process to repeal the regulation, the community will have the opportunity to provide input into that decision through required public hearings that will be scheduled before a final vote takes place. Whether the regulation is repealed or retained, the Health Department’s goal is to continue protecting and promoting public health. Once a decision is made, we will move forward with the resources and tools we are provided by the Board of Health to accomplish that goal.”
“It’s about time,” Barry County Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson said of the effort to repeal TOST. Gibson has spoken against the regulation and ran for his commission seat in the last election with the pledge to try to get TOST rescinded.
“We’ve had no resolutions asking for TOST, but we have had resolutions asking for its repeal from the Barry County Farm Bureau, twice, the Republican Party, veterans from American Legion Post 45, and the Tea Party,” Gibson said. “The commissioners were not listening to the residents.”
In October, Barry County Commissioner Vivian Conner put forward a resolution to make TOST voluntary that was passed unanimously by the commission.
The Board of Health and BEHD officials have been meeting to work out a way to modify the regulation to safeguard the environment and also satisfy property owners.
In December, noting officials were not making any progress in negotiating a voluntary plan, Conner made a motion, that failed, to rescind TOST completely and then come up with a different, voluntary plan that would be in addition to the safeguards already in place that protect the county’s water supply. //
Controversial since its inception 10 years ago, Barry County critics said the administration of the rule was capricious, arbitrary, and an unconstitutional taking of citizen’s rights. Several charged that although it was prohibited in the regulation, it was being used to bring all systems up to present day codes.
The cost of the inspection and what some called unnecessary remedies was seen as a way for the health department to increase its income. The health department maintains the regulation has discovered and required repairs on thousands of water wells and septic systems, keeping the ground water and the environment safe for county residents.