Board of Health looks to RUSS to continue county sanitation services

After the termination of Henry County?s sanitarian in February, the Board of Health invited Bruce Hudson, from the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS), to present what services they could provide to the county to fulfill environmental health requirements.

Hudson said that with RUSS, Henry County would get more than one sanitarian who would rotate between them and Louisa County, with Hudson as a backup sanitarian as needed. That way, even if the main sanitarian is out of the county, Hudson would still be available in an emergency. He said that unfortunately he needs to be recertified as a sanitarian because he never thought he would use it again, but that is just a matter of attending a few courses.

If the Board of Health wants to enter into an agreement with RUSS, they need to do it quickly, Hudson advised, with pump truck inspections due at the end of May.

?You?re coming up on that deadline pretty fast,? he said during the Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

RUSS would also be responsible for inspecting tanning and tattoo parlors and pools and spas, which have not been inspected since June 2016, according to the minutes from the Feb. 20 Board of Health meeting. Lead and radon inspection services would not be covered under RUSS.

Hudson said that if RUSS was contracted, he would like to assist in an assessment of the environmental program internally and move forward from there rather than going back to try to fix issues that have been building for years.

Chair of the Board of Health Harold Bezoni said that there weren?t regulations for some of the sewer systems put in years ago. He said that Henry County has problems just like the other counties in Iowa.

?Geode State Park closed down because septic tanks in the area were not taken care of,? Bezoni said. ?If you have the education to understand what?s going on in all that, it?s very, very frightening. It?s very, very complex.? He added that he doesn?t want to scare anyone as the county works to correct the problem.

?A lot of cities are having to replace their whole (sewer) system, and it?s multimillions of dollars,? said Greg Moeller, vice-chair of the Board of Health and Henry County Supervisor.

This is why Hudson said it will take 25 to 30 years to get ?this issue? figured out. His recommendation to the board was to take it one by one to get results. ?You have to start somewhere,? he said. ?My recommendation is to be proactive rather than reactive.?

?We?re not dealing with a thing that can be fixed overnight,? Bezoni said.

Because RUSS would be working in both Louisa and Henry County, Hudson said that a sanitarian would be in each county two days a week to run the programs and leave one floating day to get anything done that needs to be done.

Hudson also wants to have a meeting with contractors to get them up to speed on environmental requirements. ?They?re partners in this,? he said, adding that he would like to have a quick breakfast and conversation with everyone who plays a role within the environmental program.

Hudson told the board that he looks at RUSS?s duties as partners with the community and Public Health. ?It?s not regulators coming in,? he said. ?That approach has always worked for me.?

Hudson had a memorandum of understanding written up to present to the board, estimating the cost of RUSS?s services to the county to be $58,500.

?I feel good about that figure,? Moeller said, adding that in the supervisor?s meeting that morning, the board made a motion that they would financially support all of the Board of Health?s decisions as they transition to a county department as of July 1.

The cost of the program involves the mileage sanitarians travel and any additional education they need to maintain their certifications.

A sanitarian would also attend the monthly Board of Health meetings to provide an update, answer any questions the board may have and ask them questions in turn. Hudson said they will provide a running tally each month of pre-inspections, inspections during installation of systems, final inspections and complaints they received.

?Anything we?re doing as far as wastewater goes, we provide that information,? Hudson said.

?We have to demand accountability because, well, we all know why,? Bezoni said. ?We all know why.?

?I think we can run this program,? Hudson said. ?The county is already involved in RUSS. Whatever we can do for the counties that are part of our organization, we?re going to give.?

If the Board of Health and RUSS enter into an agreement, the contract can be reviewed after six months. At that time, either party can give the other a 60-day notice if they don?t think the partnership is working.

The Board of Health approved the agreement with RUSS. From there, it will be approved by the county attorney and then by RUSS?s board.

During the Board of Health meeting, Patrick Waters, director for Information Technology (IT) at Henry County Health Center, presented the IT agreement to the board between the hospital and Public Health. As long as Public Health remains on the campus of HCHC, the hospital will continue to provide IT services.

The monthly cost of those services to the county would be $521.62 a month, with an additional $35 an hour for services and support as needed.

County Auditor Shelly Barber said that she recommends that as long as Public Health remains on the HCHC campus, that they stay with the hospital. If Public Health is ever relocated to a county building, their IT services will transition to the county as well.

?The hospital is not going to make any money off this,? Waters said.

Bezoni said that the board realizes that and hopes they can reciprocate in the future.

Shelley Van Dorin, Public Health Director, said having IT support systems close by is important to the department. If their computers were to crash during an immunization clinic, they would have to send people home if IT services weren?t readily available.

?It?s going to be minutes someone has to come over and fix it or we?ll have to send people home,? Van Dorin said. ?We need to keep in mind that?s what is really nice about (HCHC IT) because they?re right here.?