Cindy Harr, a local business owner appointed by the county commission to an open seat on the board of health for the Grafton Taylor Health Department, is pictured above while talking to the commission Tuesday evening. Also pictured are Commissioners David “Rusy” Efaw and Dave Gobel. Present but not shown is Commissioner Tony Veltri.
GRAFTON – Several business owners were present for Tuesday’s county commission meeting, hoping to give input on the appointment of a new board of health member for the Grafton Taylor Health Department.
The attention to the board of health appointment by business owners is do in part to the indoor smoking ban enacted by the board of health, which is to take effect Sunday, July 22nd.
The new regulation will eliminate indoor smoking in public and private places of employment and in any business offering goods or services to the public within Taylor County.
Business owners were present to contest the suggested reappointment of Republican Kim Rogers by the commission to the board of health, citing the imbalance of republicans to democrats on the board. The imbalance of the board was created when Democrat Richard Waren changed his political standings in the fall of 2011. Waren’s decision consequently resulted in the board being composed of four republicans and one democrat.
According to Tuesday night’s report, when Waren realized Republican Kim Roger’s denial of being renewed to the board, because of the imbalance he had created, he changed his politics back to democrat. County Commissioner Dave Gobel proclaimed that Waren was playing a political game, which was unacceptable.
“I’ve been on the commission for 20 years and have never heard that the board of health was a political agency,” commented Commissioner Tony Veltri.
Taylor County resident Joe Reneman cited WV Code 16-2-7 in response to Veltri. The code states, Appointment to and composition of county boards of health; qualifications; number of appointees: A county board of health is composed of five members selected and appointed by vote of the county commission. Each member appointed to the county board of health shall be a resident of the county. No more than two members who reside in the same magisterial district may be appointed and no more than two members may be appointed who are personally licensed or certified in, engaged in, or actively participating in the same business, profession or occupation. No more than three members of a county board of health may belong to the same political party.
Acknowledging that the board had been unbalanced, local business owner Cindy Harr questioned, “How can we enact a proposed ban on something that has been enacted by an illegal board?”
Gobel responded, “Take it to court. I’ll be the first one there. You can’t do stuff like that.”
Business and club owners present continued to express their concerns with the commission, noting that no one was properly notified of the meetings by the board of health so that their opinions could be expressed.
Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Tobacco Education Representative Beverly Keener responded, “I take exception that no one knew.”
Keener was present for Tuesday night’s meeting to get permission from the commission to put brochures in the courthouse lobby concerning the hotline being made available for those wanting to quit smoking.
Keener exclaimed, “It was publicized in the paper.” Grafton Taylor Health Department representatives supported Keener’s claim when questioned by providing documentation and billing receipts where the health department had paid for ads on April 16 - 20, and then again June 4 – 14, costing the health department nearly $600.
Joe Reneman noted, “A plaque was put on the courthouse door, but that the commission didn’t know what was going on, the city council didn’t know what was going on, and that the citizens of the county didn’t know what was happening. It was a well kept secret for people being informed.”
Cindy Harr went on to explain, “We want to be informed. We want to able to vote on these matters. We want our patrons to be able to vote.”
Harr explained to the commission what smoking bans have done to gambling establishments like hers in surrounding counties.
“It is well known that 80% of gamblers smoke,” commented Harr. She continued to explain that when they can’t smoke, they go elsewhere. When they go elsewhere, businesses close.
Earlier in the meeting Commissioner Gobel had suggested that Harr be considered for the open board of health seat. Upon hearing Harr’s comments, Gobel reiterated his suggestion and went on to make the motion that she be appointed. Commission President David “Rusty” Efaw and commissioner Veltri both requested that commission hold off on such an appointment until they could confer with their legal council.
Harr argued, “The proposed ban is going to go in effect before your next meeting.”
Veltri concluded that if the commission needed to go ahead and make this appointment, as suggested, because of the timing issue, then he would go ahead and second Gobel’s motion. With Veltri’s seconding of Gobel’s motion, a count was taken and Cindy Harr was placed by the Taylor County Commission on the board of health for the Grafton Taylor Health Department.
As of the close of Tuesday’s meeting, the Taylor County Board of Health is comprised of Democrat Richard Waren and Republican Wilda Swisher for the City or Grafton, and Democrat John Keener, Republican Roger Lemasters, and Democrat Cidy Harr for the Taylor County Commission.