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3 named to health board

Appointments were previously tabled

Laura Brown, the director of the Ironton Health Department came before the council on Thursday night to introduce the people that were willing to be appointed to the department’s board.

At the Jan. 12 meeting of the council, Mayor Katrina Keith had presented three names, Edward Holmes, Scott Evans and Dr. Merkel, to the council for its approval to be appointed to the board of health to fill two resignations and one expired term.

The council did not make the appointments because they had issue with the fact the board members get paid $80 per meeting and it costs the city approximately $6,000 a year. The state law requires that people on the health boards be paid, from zero dollars with the maximum amount being $80.

At that meeting, Brown had asked the council to make the appointments and then the board could talk about the reducing the payments. She said that without the appointments, the board did not have a quorum to conduct meetings. The council did not change its mind and the matter was tabled.

On Thursday, Brown brought a legal opinion from 1996 as to whether the Ironton City Board of Health is an entity separate from the city. Based on a case of a dispute between the City of Barberton Ohio and that city’s board of health, a judge ruled that there is no legislative authority that allows Barberton to control the employees of the board and that it was a separate entity and the board’s employees are subject to state law.

It was the opinion of the City of Ironton’s legal counsel, Bob Anderson, that the Ironton Board of Health has exclusive authority to supervise and control its employees and that included decision-making with respect to wages.

Brown reminded Vice Mayor Rich Blankenship that he was the one in 2004 who made the motion that the board members be paid $80 per meeting.

Anderson was at the meeting on Thursday and agreed that the council’s involvement in the board matters was to approve or not approve people the mayor recommends for the board.

“So, can we get those appointments made tonight, if you agree,” Brown asked.

Blankenship said they would have to further discussions.

“If I don’t have a board by the end of the month, then I have to let the state know that and they have to notify the Ethics Commission,” Brown said. “Because we have to have a board meeting and I don’t have a quorum if we don’t have the appointments.”

The council went into executive session with legal counsel Mack Anderson to discuss the matter as a personnel issue. They came out of the meeting and went back into the regular meeting.

Dr. Steve Merkel, who was approached to be on the board, told the council that he would be happy to offer advice but didn’t want to be involved in politics.

“I realize that it is financial and the city is strapped,” he said, adding he was concerned because the health department was facing certification and that it costs several thousand dollars. “If $80 is a problem, what about $15,000 to get certification?”

He said he has been in the profession for 30 years and uses the health department often because they do things his office doesn’t, such as rabies shots.

“So it has an important point and I hate to see it close,” he said. “And I think that is probably what is going to happen because I’m not sure I see a way for the city health department to makes its way to certification.”

Blankenship asked if he didn’t think they could make it until the July certification.

“Oh, they can, but it takes money,” Merkel said. “If we are worried about $80, what about $15,000. If you guys don’t think it is worth it, you aren’t going want to approve $15,000 for the certification. But I think it is worth it, I think it is important.”

Later, the matter was untabled and the council voted unanimously to approve the appointments.