Thursday, April 5th, 2007
Commissioner given power to evaluate weather conditions
Employees may be sent home but still receive pay
By Shelley Grieshop
The Mercer County Health Commissioner was given the power this week to declare inclement weather and give employees a paid day off.
Board members of the Mercer County-Celina City Board of Health meeting Wednesday unanimously implemented a policy for inclement weather that allows Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser to close the office and/or send staff members home when weather conditions become hazardous.
"This was spurred by the recent blizzard," Masser told board members, reminding everyone of the major snowfall that struck the local area in mid-February.
Although the county was declared in a Level 3 snow emergency at the time, Masser said he felt it could have been done a few hours earlier, allowing health department employees a safer drive home when the weather turned worse.
The health department - like other county agencies - closes when the sheriff issues a Level 3 warning, prohibiting travel to everyone except emergency vehicles.
County employees are paid for time off when the office must close for weather-related issues.
Board members said they have confidence in Masser's discretion on evaluating weather conditions and subsequent road safety. Board member Dr. Ed Hosbach asked whether staff members would get paid if roads near their home are worse than those in Celina where the agency is located. Masser replied that each case would be first reviewed but an employee likely would be paid for the time if their road conditions were determined to be hazardous.
Board members also approved the health department's budget request for 2008, which is $30,692 less than the budget request for 2007. The department's proposed budget for 2008 is $645,257.69.
Less than two years ago, the health department predicted a future money shortfall and raised service fees throughout townships and subdivisions. The added income - about $50,000 - is now able to be recorded as income and is helping to reduce 2008's operating budget, Masser explained.
In other business, board members:
• Tentatively approved a food plan for The Potter House, 108 S. Main St., Celina, which will soon open a coffee bar inside their current location. The plan will receive full approval after electric and other utilities sign off on the project.
A wide variety of coffee drinks and related food items will be sold in the new coffee bar area, installed on the premises recently.
• Learned a bio-terrorism table top drill will take place April 30-May 3 at different locations within the county, involving the local health department, sheriff's office, EMA, Celina Police, Mercer Health and the local American Red Cross chapter. The local agencies will join 17 other counties in northwest Ohio for the Web cast event. The drill will be a practice session for a possible pandemic flu event.
• Were informed the health department will begin April 16 accepting dead crows and blue jays for testing of the West Nile virus. Songbirds and other varieties are no longer accepted for testing.
• Were shown samples of the mass mailings by the local health department to remind residents that 2006 home septic system permits expire one year from the date of issuance.
• Learned board members are still awaiting the final draft of the new smoking ban that became effective in December. The next meeting for state officials and others penning the rules is April 16. The regulations could become effective 10 days after that meeting, Masser said.