Policy, finances occupy Board of Health

By Mary Zielinski
Posted 11/22/21

Policy revisions, mileage reimbursements, potential wage increases for staff and updating a phone system occupied the Washington County Board of Health at its Thursday, November 18 regular …

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Policy, finances occupy Board of Health


Policy revisions, mileage reimbursements, potential wage increases for staff and updating a phone system occupied the Washington County Board of Health at its Thursday, November 18 regular meeting.

The first policy dealt with the Agency Trust Fund, for which the board last month approved dissolution of the separate advisory committee and on Thursday approved a revision putting it under board governance. There also was approval of the agency cell phone policy, stressing that such phones are only for agency business.  Conversely, it also stressed that no personal cell phones should be used for agency business.  It was noted that there could be a situation, as in an emergency, that a personal phone might be used.

Following a discussion regarding both state (39 cents per mile) and federal (56 cents per mile) mileage reimbursement rates, the board approved setting using the federal rate.  This would apply to use of a personal vehicle; however, it was noted that frequently employees use a county department owned vehicle and that mileage reimbursement is not an employee benefit. The rate change also requires supervisor approval. 

During the discussion about potential wage increases, interim Administrator Chris Estle noted that evaluations regarding ages are not merit based, that cost of living allocations is considered and that with budget time coming up, a review of procedures could be done. Chairman Cathy Huffington said that a finance committee should be appointed to review all aspects, then return to the board with recommendations.

Although work is being done with the department’s phone system, more changes are needed, explained Estle, especially regarding having a full automated messaging system.  Estelle noted it is “a very old system,” more than 25 years old and currently, the message system has to be turned on and off manually, which has presented occasional problems with the closing of the office between noon and 1 p.m. in the work week.

The system also is connected to the county courthouse, whose phone system is even older.  Expectations are that updating may be done within a year.

The board also addressed the step increase for the new administrator, Emily Huston Tokheim, who will officially take the position on November 29.  The increases will follow monthly evaluations with raise at 120 days and the second one by July 1, 2022.

In a related motion, the board also voted signatory approval to permit Tokheim to sign documents as well as checks in department business. 

Most serious discussion came about the state changes in the operation of public health agencies and the Department of Human services, that, in essence, calls for combining the two.  Since much of public health is financed through a variety of grants, it means, said Estle, each health department will compete with all other departments.  It was noted that guidelines for the change are not all that fit, likening the entire situation to a quagmire, especially when it comes to the state’s issuance of unfunded mandates for the departments, shifting costs to local counties.

In other business, the board:

• learned that the septic system at 140th Street in Wellman no longer has open discharge issues, and the owner is seeking funding to improve the system;

• learned that there is a septic system problem in a home in West Chester that also has open discharge of waste. Authorities, including the sheriff, were notified;

• learned there was a hoarder and insects infestation problem at a residence outside the Riverside city limit. DHS “is seeing about help with it,” reported Environmental Health Director Jason Taylor.  The home involved has been condemned;

• learned that there were 38 reported COVID cases in the county with eight of them coming within 24 hours last week, and that the department is holding regular immunization clinics, including for COVID.


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