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Businessman upset with health board decisions

LISBON — While many businesses closed for various amounts of time when the coronavirus first appeared in Ohio, at least one local excavator, Mint Cook, came to the Board of Health Wednesday to voice his displeasure with the decisions made.

Cook said he was told he could not work, like on a day someone from the Columbiana County Health Department called and told him he could not even grub trees. Cook said at 72-years-old he enjoys working and yet he felt like he was being shut down while the others could keep working.

Board President Dr. Jack Amato explained to Cook that the local health department had to comply with the orders as they were issued by the Ohio Department of Health. Additionally, Amato pointed out there was a local gas plant with 700 employees, which was also shut down due to the board orders. He was not singled out.

Yet Cook pointed to the number of lawsuits filed against Gov. Mike DeWine challenging the coronavirus-related shutdowns.

“Personally, I may agree with you that the lockdowns went too far,” Amato said, adding politics might have a lot to do with it. “But this agency must obey the orders of the Director of the Ohio Department of Health.”

Amato noted there was a neighboring county where it appears regulations were not followed and besides the commissioner losing her job, there is a possibility the whole health department could be taken over by the state without any local control.

Cook went on to question recent changes to the septic regulations and again Amato pointed to a state committee that made those decisions, which was heavily populated by people from Franklin, Cuyahoga and Hamilton Counties. Amato said when Columbiana County’s board objected, they allowed Columbiana County Commissioner Wes Vins to join the committee, but he was only one rural voice and vote in a group primarily from areas where most utilize sewer systems. According to Amato, Columbiana County installs more septic tanks annually, than Cuyahoga County does.

Without saying he disagrees with the new rules, Cook questioned what the county health board intends to do if he does not renew his required registration as an installer and continues installing systems. Amato responded that he could be cited into court for violating board orders.

“If you want to continue to work, renew your license,” Amato said.

After Cook left the meeting, Vins said there was a point when landscaping, which would include grubbing trees, was not considered an essential business. As things have opened back up, the health department has worked with many businesses, schools and organizations to help them interpret the regulations and open safely as the coronavirus continues.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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