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Mahoning Health Department blasts proposed fund cuts


Published: Fri, October 26, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By William K. Alcorn

alcorn@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

The Mahoning County Health Department says it would not be able to inspect county landfills or test water wells around the landfills in as timely a manner if the Solid Waste Management District enacts proposed funding cuts.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand,” said Patricia Sweeney, county District Board of Health commissioner, at the health board meeting this week.

For years, the county health department has received money from the SWMD, generated by landfill tipping fees, to inspect the county’s seven active and closed landfills and monitor the quality of groundwater (well water) for the more than 2,000 residents and business in the vicinity of the landfills.

The health department also uses SWMD funding to investigate open dumping, open burning and infectious-waste complaints, and inspect compost facilities.

Six years ago, the district, better known as the Green Team, allocated $600,000 a year of its tipping-fee revenue to the health department. The allocation was subsequently reduced to $480,000, and now the allocation proposed in the SWMD budget is $300,000 beginning in 2015.

“We can’t go lower than $400,000 and maintain the needed level of service,” Sweeney said.

The health board believes that protecting the health and safety of the residents that bear all the risk deserve more than 10 percent of the fees generated by the waste being dumped in the landfills in their back yards while more than 82 percent of the fees fund recycling, Sweeney added.

Sweeney said she will request explanations of various SWMD expenditures to learn what amounts of money are spent on nonrecycling purposes which could possibly be reduced and directed to the health department.

Health board members object to what they view as SWMD’s apparent discounting of resolutions adopted by numerous township boards of trustees and the Mahoning County Township Association protesting SWMD’s proposed future spending plan outside of the official public written comment period.

The township resolutions were presented to the SWMD on Oct. 12, the last day of the written-comment period, as supporting documents to the health board’s objection to SWMD’s spending proposal.

The SWMD, however, made special note that the township documents were “generated prior to” the beginning of the written pub- lic comment period that began Sept. 1.

“To me, that represents turning its back on the wishes of the elected representatives of the public in those townships,” Sweeney said. “I see this as a problem. I can’t imagine telling the township trustees that their resolutions don‘t carry any weight.”

Sweeney said she has been directed by the health board to seek a legal opinion from the county prosecutor’s office on the validity of the township resolutions opposing the SWMD proposed budget, which will be presented Oct. 30 by the SWMD Policy Committee.


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