The Salem City Health Board selected a new vital statistics registrar Wednesday, but held off on a decision about work hours due to questions over state requirements for more hours than the board had planned.
Terrielynn Hunter, of West South Range Road, Salem, was offered the position and accepted it. She'll be replacing outgoing registrar Candice Pierson, who's retiring Oct. 31.
The registrar is responsible for issuing birth and death certificates, burial permits and other vital statistic documents in the area covered by the district, which would cover anything in the city of Salem.
Hunter will have to go through an eight-hour training session and some web training, take a test and be certified. Once certified, she'll appoint a deputy registrar who will serve as her backup.
With a possible deficit looming for next year, the board was looking to cut expenses by reducing the hours of registrar to part-time. City council took action to make the position part-time beginning with the new registrar and set the wages at $12 for the new registrar and $11.50 for the deputy.
The board had talked about having the registrar and a deputy registrar both working part-time hours, each a half day Monday through Friday with a half-hour overlap so they could have better coverage, not close at lunch time and reduce expenses.
City Health Commissioner Rick Setty presented the board with a revised plan Wednesday based on what he felt the Ohio Department of Health Office of Vital Statistics requested in a series of emails.
He said the bottom line was a minimum 30 hours for the registrar and 15 hours for the deputy registrar with three hours of overlap each day between them. His suggestion was to have the registrar work 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., have the office closed from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and have the deputy registrar work from 1:30 to 4:30, all Monday through
The plan before was to have the registrar work from 8:30 to 12:30 p.m. and the deputy from noon to 4 p.m., with the office open the whole time from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The office is currently open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed for lunch from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with a full-time registrar who is retiring. The health nurse acts as the deputy registrar when the registrar isn't available, but she's off on medical leave at the moment.
An email from ODH Office of Vital Statistics State Registrar Judy Nagy said the original proposal would not be sufficient for the office to continue operating as a vital statistics office and the duties would have to be transferred to Columbiana County.
In her email, she noted that the registrar can be part-time as long as the person is working the majority of the hours, for example 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour lunch, four days a week would be 24 hours, or 30 hours if five days a week.
"The deputy should work a minimum of three hours per day to help with coverage and overlap with the registrar accordingly to help with lunch/breaks and busier times in the day," the email said.
In another email from Mark Kassouf, Compliance Manager/State Mass Fatality Planner/Chief Fraud Officer of the ODH Office of Vital Statistics, the responsibility of the local registrar to adhere to laws and regulations associated with Vital Statistics and the functions of the office was noted.
"If this cannot be accomplished then we will need to discuss transferring the registrar functions to Columbiana County," Kassouf wrote.
Board members questioned whether the three hours of daily overlap was mandatory, with Steve Faber saying he did not see the word must. He said it sounded more like a suggestion. Judy Sicilia asked why it was suddenly an issue and said the three-hour overlap concerned her.
"One of the goals was not to be closed for lunch. I would like to see us accomplish that," she said, questioning the state's basis.
"We started this discussion due to finances and here we are talking about more hours. From my standpoint, it makes no sense," board member Newt McKnight said.
Faber asked why they couldn't have the registrar work three days a week and the deputy registrar two days a week and keep the hours they currently have, then they wouldn't have the complication of changing the office's hours or "give the impression to the public that we're going to do less for them."
Sicilia said she felt it was difficult for the board to make a decision without seeing a more substantial definition of what the state would do if they stuck to the original plan.
"Do you think they'll close us down?" she asked.
"They'll transfer us to Columbiana County," Setty said.
Board member Cami Jackson asked if they could do what the state was suggesting for now, giving them a chance to better see what their finances will be and to talk with the state. Faber moved on Setty's proposal until Dec. 31, with a review of the hours at that time, but Sicilia questioned if they were changing all their signage then to reflect those hours and then talking about changing them again. She didn't feel comfortable with the idea.
She said they had time to get clarification from the state considering the current registrar isn't leaving until Oct. 31 and if they needed to have a special meeting, they could call one. Faber withdrew his motion and they decided two board members would talk with an ODH representative about what they can do.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com