During the February meeting, Staley said the health department was not cooperative in having an environmental audit done. He said board members were claiming they had an audit done, however, Staley said the state didn't have a copy of it.
Clay County Attorney Eric Somheil said, "There was some type of audit procedure done; it was not the same type of audit that Randy has been referring to or suggesting. Since then, the health department has changed their rules and regulations and they do require new installation or repair, that a soil scientist be employed ... they do follow that policy now."
Staley, as a soil scientist, said he's been doing this for approximately 15 years and has worked in 34 of the 92 counties.
"This county would rank as one of the lowest ones," Staley said. "This is an environmental health issue."
Staley proposed three ways to improve the problems including:
* Having on-site investigations,
* Having workshops for septic system installers, and
* Having an environmental audit to see where the county's strengths and weaknesses are.
Staley said he would want the septic systems checked whenever real estate changes possession/ownership to make sure everything is up to code.
Somheil said having the septic system evaluated would be up to the buyer and is not a requirement in Clay County.
Staley went back to the issue of an environmental audit, saying, "It's something that needs to be done that doesn't cost the county anything."
However, the commissioners felt the health board should be the ones to make the decision.
"Go talk to the health board," Somheil said, "then we'll see if the commissioners need to get involved."
Commissioner Paul Sinders said, "I would like for that audit, if it's needed, to come from (the health board) because I hate to go above and over them. I have great respect for those board members; if I didn't have, I wouldn't have appointed them in the first place. I know you are saying we have the right to (require an environmental audit), but they are the health board -- we've appointed them, and it is their right and responsibility to appoint that if it's needed."
Auditor Mary Jo Alumbaugh added, "I think one of the things hanging this up is the word 'audit.' As the auditor, I deal with that constantly. There's always an assumption that when there's an audit done, they're looking for something wrong. We view it, in our office, as an opportunity to reveal problems so that we can correct them. If you can get people to look at an audit as an opportunity -- to be sure that you are doing right, to confirm the things that are done correctly, to point out weaknesses, to give opportunities to improve. We welcome our audit every year because it's a confirmation that we're doing our job, but there's always an opportunity to do it better."
"I think to reject the opportunity for a free audit from an independent agency or a state agency ... is unfortunate," she continued. "If we're going to be viewed as a progressive county and community that wants to encourage growth, we need to be taking advantage of every avenue that we have to improve the quality of life of our people. I think it is unfortunate that this has not been done."
Sinders plans to attend the health board meeting in April to discuss this issue with the heath board members.