Clinton County has 3 ‘open dumps,’ says County Director of Environmental Health

WILMINGTON — The county’s environmental health director last year conducted 80 inspections into complaints of nuisance solid waste, and year-to-date for 2017 he has completed 90 inspections.

Of those, only a handful are classified as open dumps, said Clinton County Director of Environmental Health Matt Johannes. Currently, there are three places in the county regarded as active cases of open dumps on which Johannes is working with the Ohio EPA to rectify.

Two of the open dumps are located in unzoned Washington Township, and the third one — which Johannes said is largely cleaned up — is in Vernon Township.

Usually, open dumps occur on properties where nobody resides, and the sites are used as a place to get rid of solid waste, Johannes said.

Clinton County Health Commissioner Pamela Walker Bauer told county commissioners Monday that open dumps are like a landfill-type situation where solid wastes are brought in — but the site is not licensed as a solid waste facility.

Most of the properties being complained about fall into the category of what Johannes calls “general nuisance solid waste.” For example, those would include residential properties where the yard is a mess or the household trash is not properly disposed of, Johannes said.

An example of that occurred in Sabina last year when trash was disposed of in an outbuilding, about 14 feet by 16 feet. When it was basically full, additional trash was placed near the building, said Johannes.

Depending on the extent of cooperation by the tenant or landlord, he said most complaints take about a month or a month and a half to clear up. The community member has a right to due process of law, added Johannes.

Walker Bauer said the Clinton County Health District tries to work with the person who has been ordered to clean up the property, and tries to be reasonable in how much time it will take. But as time goes on, the county prosecutor’s office can be brought in to take measures, she said.

Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, said Walker Bauer, citing situations involving mental health issues or a widow or widower. In those instances, the health district tries to be patient, she said.

Things that draw vermin such as rats, or the presence of scrap tires that draw insects, are chief concerns, Walker Bauer said.

A small number of solid waste complaints turn out to be situations where a resident is trying to get a neighbor in trouble, Johannes said.

And sometimes the situation isn’t really something the Clinton County Health District is authorized to remedy, like complaining about a neighbor who may not have the neatest property around and who uses an old toilet as a flower planter, Clinton County Solid Waste District Coordinator Jeff Walls said.

Although this year’s number of complaint-driven inspections already surpasses last year’s total, the general pattern is for complaints to lessen during cooler weather, said Walker Bauer.

In another matter Monday, commissioners discussed how to spell out an invitation to service agencies that may want to bid to administer levy funds for senior services.

The Council on Aging (COA) of Southwestern Ohio currently administers the Clinton County Elderly Services Program through a contract with the Clinton County commissioners. The elderly services program receives nearly 90 percent of its funding from a 1.5-mills senior services tax levy.

Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley recused himself from the process.

“The matters to be deliberated by the Board of County Commissioners will involve, to a great extent, the continued contracting for administrative services with the Southwest Council on Aging,” Haley stated. “It is a matter of public record that my wife was previously employed by Council on Aging and has a pending administrative appeal with them.

“Although I do not believe this fact would affect my ability to review any proposals fairly and impartially, it is my fear that any position that I might take could be subject to criticism and undermine public confidence in the decision of the Board. Therefore, following consultation with the Prosecutor’s Office [the commissioners’ legal counsel], I have decided to abstain from any deliberations,” Haley said.

The Clinton County Community Action Program has indicated it may submit a proposal to administer the funds for senior services.

Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed said he would like to see the commissioners’ RFP (Request for Proposal) specifically ask the bidder about conducting a customer-satisfaction survey to learn how seniors assess their senior services.

Assistant Clinton County Prosecutor Andrew McCoy, who serves as legal counsel for the board of commissioners, said there already is a lot of accountability concerning the revenue generated by the senior services levy.

“I think what isn’t accounted for in those more traditional evaluations and audits are what you guys are talking about, which is customer service, customer satisfaction; and finding new creative ways to reach out to the people [caregivers] that can service the elderly,” McCoy said.

Council on Aging officials reported earlier this year that there is a continuing shortage of home care aides for older adults.

The local Elderly Services Program Advisory Board, made up of seniors and seniors advocates, will have an opportunity to add items to the Request for Proposal before it is made available to interested agencies.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

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Walker Bauer Bauer

By Gary Huffenberger