To the editor:
The Columbiana County Health Board (CCHD) and Advisory Council meet once a year in the first week of March. This meeting is made up of health board members and one township trustee from each township.
I worked at the CCHD as the plumbing inspector for the last 10 years, I am a township trustee in Center Township. While working at the CCHD, I was told it would be a conflict of interest to be the representative for Center Township at the advisory council meeting. After retiring from the CCHD, I looked forward to bringing several issues about the health department before the Advisory Council. The health board, or health commissioner, were already aware of these issues. When I asked to present these issues I was told there wasn't time for this and that the Advisory Council meeting wasn't for this purpose.
I wanted to bring these issues in front of the health board and Advisory Council while they were both present but, because I was told this was not possible, they will now be presented in this article.
The health department is funded with permit fees, license fees, grants and taxes. The actual cost per taxpayer in Columbiana County for the health department is 27 cents a month which is $3.24 a year in taxes. The CCHD provides PSA tests for men, skin cancer exams, breast cancer exams, immunizations and other important services at no cost to the citizens of Columbiana County. As you can see the CCHD is the best bargain for your tax dollar in Columbiana County.
There are several problems in the CCHD that need to be corrected. The wages of the employees are considerably less than their counterparts in other health departments in counties with comparable populations, median income and budget as the CCHD. I think the employees realize the economy is down right now but as the economy improves, these wages should be brought in line with other health departments in comparable counties. As little as 20 cents per month raise in taxes could bring us up to a pay scale similar to other health departments in counties our size. Surely, we could afford this.
The CCHD hired a new health commissioner three years ago. When Mr. Vins was hired, the economy was down and he explained that he might have to cut hours if things didn't improve. Vins was hired at $79,000 a year and was awarded a $5,000 a year raise his first year. Vins then asked for volunteers to go on 32-hour weeks due to lack of money coming in to the CCHD. Myself and a registered nurse volunteered to go on 32 hours to help because of the shortage of funds. While this was happening, the health board and Advisory Council approved a 3.5 percent a year raise for the next five years for Mr. Vins.
There's a glaring disparity here. The health commissioner says there's no money yet the health board gave him two substantial raises at the very time he is telling his employees there is no money and he may have to cut hours or lay people off.
You lead by example and this situation is not a good example. Maybe if department heads across the country, county, state and federal levels would give up one day a week of "wages" as they ask their employees, it would show they are willing to help shoulder the burden. I have noticed over the years that everything works without the department heads when they are missing for a day.
Mr. Vins appointed a safety committee when he came to the CCHD. I was a member of the safety committee. I told the committee of a dangerous situation in front of the CCHD at the first meeting. If you are going south on Route 45 and you turn left in to the CCHD, there is a blind spot where you can't see oncoming traffic. This situation can be alleviated by moving the drive 50 feet to the top of the hill. I acquired all the necessary paperwork from the state and a bid from R&R. Paving. Mr. Vins has had the paperwork for a year now. This needs to be addressed. The flashing sign at this entrance also adds to the hazardous situation because of the distraction it causes to the northbound traffic. There are elderly people using this driveway. This needs to be corrected ASAP.
The last issue that needs attention is the hiring of the new plumbing inspector. The new plumbing inspector is quite capable but the way he was hired was not fair or professional. During the 10 years I was the plumbing inspector, if I was sick or on vacation, a plumber from within the county replaced me. This was Auggie Cerrone. Auggie is a certified plumbing inspector and was led to believe for the last 10 years that he would replace me when I retired. Instead, Vins brought a friend of his from the area where he lives and gave him the job. This was the usual political BS! I think we should hire from within the county and buy within the county whenever possible.