Christina Mickey from the Bureau of Public Health is shown above as she addresses the Taylor County Commission and a room full of citizens during Tuesday’s commission meeting. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Tobacco for a Smoke Free West Virginia sponsors Mickey to help local boards of health in the institution of smoking plans, as was started here in Taylor County last Sunday.
GRAFTON – “They changed one word, and that is what this is all about,” commented Joe Reneman early in Tuesday’s Taylor County Commission meeting.
The commission chambers were filled with bar, gambling establishment, and private club owners who oppose the smoking ban set down by the Taylor County Board of Health.
Joyce Lee, Administrator for the Taylor County Health Department, was present for the meeting. She explained to the commission that it is her job to deal with public health issues. She went on to note that she understands that there is opposition to the smoking ban, but such bans are being initiated throughout the state.
Upon clarifying that 10 other counties have had their smoking bans challenged, and after emphasizing that in all 10 cases the courts had upheld the board of health’s decision, Lee addressed Commissioner Dave Gobel, “You said, take them to court, but the county commission is legally and financially responsible for the health department, so would you be suing yourself?”
Gobel answered, “That was said, but not an exact quote of what I meant to say.” He went on to say, “Everybody is saying that it is an illegal board. They voted on it in May, and then didn’t have the meetings until June. People showed up in June, to express their opinions and their feelings about this, and found that it was already said and done.”
Joe Reneman exspressed to Lee concerning Christina Mickey, “And this lady stood up and talked and wouldn’t recognize (identify) herself. She was from another county and I thought that was totally out of place, because it was to be for the county residents of Taylor County.”
Mickey responded, “This is my job. I’m sorry, but this is my job.”
Addressing Lee, Cindy Harr questioned, “…if it was so well publicized, this proposed ban, then how come two of out of three of our county commissioners weren’t even aware of it happening? For the same reason we weren’t, we received nothing in the mail. We did receive a copy of the proposed ban in the mail, after it was already passed. Previously, before that, we received nothing.”
Mickey interjected, “They did have two public hearings, and they spent almost $600 advertising it in the newspaper. There were two public hearings. There was one at 12 noon and they had one in the evening. They spent $600 advertising it, above and beyond any legal requirement.”
Lee went on to note, “It was also posted at the courthouse, the library, the city building and the health department.”
County resident Butch Pickens inserted, “And everybody goes to those places. It was so convenient.”
Harr threw in, “Even so, two out of the three county commissioners were not even aware of it, that’s how well it was publicized.
Eileen Greynolds questioned, “Why wasn’t every business sent a letter? That way you would have known that everybody in this county that has a business, bar wise, us, would have known about all of this crap that was going on. Instead of having to depend on the newspaper, or come into the courthouse or where ever? That would have been the smart thing to do. The sneaky way was through the newspaper, by not letting every business know,” she concluded.
In an effort to regain control of the meeting, Commissioner David Rusty Efaw stated, “I think what we need to do right now is to start from the beginning and get the board set right. We will get the names of these people that are interested in being on the board, and then we will put it on the agenda to select a board member next (week), the 31st.”
Pauline Brown, who had been with the health department for 31 years interjected, “The process has always been that the health department would request to the county commission, and to the city, and we would give you some names of people that showed an interest. And I think that when Mrs. Rogers was let go, that was a real slap in the face. She had been a very good person. She took my place, because of health reasons I resigned.” Brown went on to suggest, “I would say that somebody, whoever you appoint, should have some type of medical background. They should know something about health.”
Harr responded to Brown’s suggestion by asking, “Are you saying, that the board of health members that we have now, all have a medical background?”
Brown answered, “No, I’m saying that it would be wise.”
Harr offered, “I have 30 years of medical background with animals. I am a Vet Tech by trade. I specialize in equine anesthesia, and did anesthesia on horses in Egypt for over 20 years.”
Brown responded, “I don’t think that qualifies for medical.”
Harr rebutted, “Pardon me, but medical is medical.”
Harr continued to question Brown by asking, “So you only want to nominate somebody that you nominate?”
Brown responded, “If anybody is really interested, and they show an interest in health, not just one issue, they should be nominated.”
Harr concluded, “We are interested in having a business owner that represents our people, our patrons, so that our business owners will know what is going on, and so that we have somebody in our field.”
Efaw once again noted, “It has never happened this way before. We have never had a lot of people interested to choose from. As Tony said, for 20 years, nothing like this has ever happened.”
Scott Bitner, “Normally they are not killing Taylor County. It wouldn’t be bad if you weren’t killing our businesses. Taylor County is already dieing. There is nothing to do in Taylor County. Where do the kids go? As soon as they graduate school, they are gone. There is nothing here, so leave us alone.”
Joe Reneman then questioned Mickey, “Who do you represent?”
Mickey responded, “The Bureau of Public Health. In particular, the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Tobacco for a Smoke Free West Virginia.”
Reneman went on to ask, “With that being said, have you instituted anything here in the schools in this county for smoke prevention?”
Mickey answered, “Well our school campuses are smoke and tobacco free.”
Reneman emphasized, “I asked you if you instituted a program.”
Mickey replied, “We have the RAZE program. We have the NOT (Kids Not On Tobacco) program, we have all kinds of tobacco prevention programs.”
In support of Mickey, Beverly Keener, the Regional Tobacco Coordinator, interjected, “I have been in this for 13 years, and 13 years in Taylor County. They have the youth RAZE group in the schools, they have the NOT (Not on Tobacco) program, which is a sensational program. And then we have an adolescent program that is number one in the country, that was developed right here, and we do that in the schools.”
Reneman responded, “Another kept secret.”
Keener continued, “We certainly publicize as much as we can.” She then went on to announce, “Taylor County! In the north central region of six counties, your local NOT teacher, Mrs. Merrifield, at your middle school, has the highest rate of quitters in the six county regions, and she is going to get an award for that.”
Once again addressing the commission, Harr questioned, “Since Richard Warne has already changed his political affiliation twice, does the county commission not have the authority or the power to remove that person?
Commissioner Efaw responded, “He is actually a city appointment.”
Trying to answer Harr’s question, Mickey responded, “If you look at the statute, the only one that can remove a board of health appointment is the board of health, and that is for violations of their own laws of the state health offices. They are politically shielded because they have to make tough public health decisions. It’s right in code.”
Commissioner Gobel responded, “I disagree with you.”
Richard Warne, also being in attendance at the meeting, noted, “I didn’t think it would make that much difference, and I didn’t know that it was going to create a four-to-one ratio on the board. So when I found out, I came back here and changed to Democrat.”
Harr responded, “You don’t change your political affiliation just so you can vote somebody in, or somebody out, or to get on the board, or get off of the board.”
As far as making an appointment to the board of health, the Taylor County Commission will be accepting applications from those interested in filling the vacancy. Interested parties can be either republican or democrat, and must be from either the Tygart or Western Districts. All applications need to be submitted to County Clerk Georginna Thompson before 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. The commission will reference the applications, check the qualifications, and make an appointment at 7:00 p.m. in their meeting.
Harr then questioned, “Well, If I move into my sons house tomorrow, which is in the Western District, does that mean I can be nominated?” No verbal answer was given.
Grafton Taylor Health Department Administrator Joyce Lee noted to all present, that the board of health meetings are open to the public, and then encouraged everyone from the community to attend.