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Jefferson County Commission talks health board concerns

GIVING THANKS — Amsterdam village mayor Jim Phillips addressed the Jefferson County commissioners Wednesday morning to discuss the ongoing county sewer project in his village. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile took a moment at Wednesday’s meeting to address Royal Mayo over events that transpired at last week’s meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Health.

“Royal, we have at times agreed and at times disagreed on issues,” Gentile said to Mayo. “I witnessed something last week when I went to the health department meeting last week when you were clearly on the agenda, you were one of three, one of whom being me, and the other two were allowed to speak and you were told that you weren’t allowed to speak. You handled yourself very well in that situation. I thought you were polite, respectful and articulate.

“I do, as a Jefferson County commissioner apologize to you that you went to a board meeting for something in this county where you were signed up and weren’t allowed to speak, at least on the record. It needs to be acknowledged, it needs to be pointed out.”

Mayo attended the meeting to discuss a couple of matters, including the commissioners’ oversight of the board of health.

“I don’t know what the health board’s powers and abilities are, I’m researching that now,” Mayo said. “But, the way that board is ran, I have never seen anything like that. I don’t know what kind of financial ties the county commissioners have to the health board, any insurance overlap or anything like that, but if there are, I think somebody should hold them to more accountability.”

Gentile raised insurance concerns with the board of health at last week’s commissioners meeting, getting questions about the coverage clarified by a representative from CORSA, the county’s insurance provider.

“We don’t fund the board of health, they are their own board,” Commissioner Thomas Graham said. “But, they are on county insurance, which is CORSA, which plays a role in situations where there might be lawsuits or whatever the case may be. Debbie Hukill (of CORSA) said last week she was going to talk to them about what that means.”

Gentile noted that the board of health falls in a unique category in comparison to other county boards.

“They are all county employees, which affects us,” Gentile said, noting other boards are not county employees. “That is kind of an anomaly with how that works. It really is an unusual situation.”

Mayo inquired about county assistance for COVID-19 testing being conducted by an organization he is working with, and was advised by the commissioners to check with the county auditor’s office.

He noted he plans to get on the agenda in the near future for further discussions about the board of health.

Also appearing at the meeting was Amsterdam Mayor Jim Phillips to discuss the ongoing county sewer project in the village.

Phillips and the commissioners both commented on the positive impact the project will have on the village.

“The sewer project has been great,” Phillips said. “(Everyone involved) has done great work. There are challenges with any project this size, but I think everyone is rising above that. I’ve been very impressed.

“I think it’s a great thing for the community and for the county. It helps our environment. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been trying to get that end of the county to get the county sewer, and I’m proud of the fact that Amsterdam stepped up to do that.”

“Amsterdam has been wonderful to work with on this project,” Gentile said. “It’s by-and-large been a wonderful project.”

Phillips also brought up the road resurfacing concerns. The commissioners discussed resurfacing concerns at length last week with Loudon Township trustees, which county Water and Sewer District Director Michael Eroshevich addressed a couple items later on the agenda with a change order.

The change will break the resurfacing into two parts, repairing the ditched areas of the roads in the near future then putting a new surface layer over top of the entire road in the spring, the total of which combined would meet the criteria needed for depth of the trench repair.

“We all feel this is a better repair, a better way to do it and is going to be a better end product,” Eroshevich said.

Phillips was grateful for the commissioners working with his village on the matter.

Commissioner-elect Tony Morelli submitted his resignation from the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority Board, and received praise from both Gentile and Graham for his work at the JMHA.

“It’s an understatement to say that (Morelli was) part of turning that around,” Gentile said. “I know what you had to deal with when you got there and what the agency was dealing with.”

“Thank you, Tony, for your service with that board,” Graham said. “We appreciate what you did.”

The commissioners also approved a Coronavirus Supplemental Funding Grant for the county Juvenile Court for more than $39,000.

The commissioners approved a couple of payments for the ongoing projects at the jail and commented on the progress.

“For the first time in the history of that building it will have a proper roof that is insulated and slopes correctly,” Gentile said. “Due to (county maintenance supervisor) Patrick (Boyles’) good coordination, McKinley (and Associates, the county’s architectural engineering consultant) and a good contractor, that project has been moving along very well.

“Since we took over the maintenance of that building three or four years ago, we have made so many improvements and so many things are finally, for the first time, working.”

Graham agreed with that sentiment.

“Since the day they built that place, it has had roof problems, structural problems,” Graham said. “We’re able to get this complete, it’ll be nice to have that taken care of.”

The commissioners held a bid opening for the county Road 24 and 25 slip repair project for the engineering department, receiving a total of 10 bids.

The estimate was $269,309.17. The bids ranged from $229,481.80 to $479,262.

The commissioners, who met on Wednesday this week due to Thanksgiving, also made changes to future meetings, canceling the meeting on Dec. 24 and moving the Dec. 31 meeting to Dec. 30.

Commissioner Dave Maple was absent from the meeting.

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