Who’s out there to clean up mess?

Published 10:00 am Friday, June 18, 2010

The Lawrence County Commission Thursday agreed to ask the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office for an opinion as to whether the commission can contract out the code enforcement officer’s duties that is normally performed by an employee at the health department.

State law gives the power to enforce serious sanitation problems to city or county health departments — such problems as homes that have infestations of rats or raw sewage leaking onto the ground or bags and bags of household waste piling up.

Health Departments are operated by a health board and do not answer to the county commission.

But right now the Lawrence County Health Department does not have a code enforcement officer and Commissioner Les Boggs said he has been told the county agency doesn’t have the money to hire one.

“I’m not doing anything behind anyone’s back. They say they don’t have money but we still need it (the position),” Boggs said.

In the meantime, people who have concerns about their grossly untidy neighbors are left with few resources except to call the commission office and complain.

“In Lawrence County there are several areas where people live close together but it’s still treated like you live out in the country,” Commissioner Jason Stephens explained.

He cited as an example some Burlington residents who are contending with an abandoned trailer has become infested with rats and cockroaches, is leaking raw sewage and is surrounded by tall weeds.

While the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District can handle illegal dumping and littering complaints, the job of household sanitation falls under the jurisdiction of a health department code enforcement officer.

Boggs said he is not criticizing other duties the health department performs.

However, without an enforcement officer, the health department usually just sends a letter to the property owner asking him or her to address the issue. But letters often don’t resolve the problem.

“I’m not satisfied with the way things are,” Boggs said. “I’m not trying to be critical but I’m not satisfied.”

The commission also heard a report Thursday from Stephens regarding the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services (SEOEMS).

Stephens is treasurer of the SEOEMS board. Micah McCathren, who was hired last summer as chief financial officer, abruptly resigned last week; his resignation was effective today but the board chose to put him on administrative leave until then.

Stephens said the SEOEMS board has appointed Eric Kuhn as the financial officer until a decision is made to replace McCathren.

“We’re trying to determine where we are with funding,” Stephens said.