The quarterly meeting of the Jones County Board of Health had good news for non-profit fundraisers.
Board Chairman Jennifer Goldsberry called the Sept. 2 meeting to order that was conducted via a conference call with board members. With no old business on the agenda, the chairman recognized North Central Health District Environmental Specialist Cara Coley to address the one new business item.
The specialist talked about an issue involving Jones County’s well water rule and several properties affected by a failing septic system in an older subdivision.
Coley said the lots in the subdivision are 75 feet wide and 150 feet deep. She said there are three properties with shallow wells that are within 50 feet of the failing septic system that has to be repaired.
The subdivision now has public water, but the well water rule requires the abandonment of wells within 100 feet of a septic system no matter the well’s use.
Coley explained that the issue is that the wells could create a hole in the aquifer and cause contamination. She said she spoke to county attorney Ashley Brodie, and the attorney did not think the county should force the neighboring property owners to abandon their wells because of the cost.
“We still need to repair the failing system and make it a better situation,” she said.
The specialist asked for questions, and Goldsberry asked who would pay for the repairs. Coley said it would be the property owner.
Coley went on to say that her concern was, if the wells are left as is, a year from now the property owners could decide to switch from county water back to their wells.
Board of Health member Rooster Cogburn asked if the 100-foot set back was possible, and Coley said it was not. She said, when the homes were built in the 1940s, the set back requirement from the septic system was 50 feet.
The specialist said the next step was a soil report. She said that would make a difference in dealing with how far the well should be from the septic system.
Cogburn said he did not feel like the board could make a decision without knowing the results of the soil test.
Goldsberry asked Coley if what she was asking from the board was approval to move forward with improving the situation of the failing septic system, and the specialist said yes.
“I’d like to move forward with the soil test and making the system better,” Coley said.
Goldsberry asked if the county would abandon the wells at no charge. Coley said she did not know, but if they did it could put them in the situation of taking care of abandoning future wells.
Cogburn said they needed the soil test numbers and Goldsberry said she would like to know what the county was willing to do.
It was agreed by consensus that board members could have an emergency meeting if a decision was needed after the soil test results were received.
Coley said a new state law signed by the governor in August allows local governments to be responsible for permitting and inspecting non-profit food services. The issue almost shut down Jones County’s Relay for Life fundraiser in 2013 because of the restrictions placed on food vendors resulting from Health Department inspections.
That was ultimately resolved when the Mayor of Gray at the time, Gus Wilson, took on the responsibility for doing the inspections. It now appears the state has come to the same decision.
Coley said local health departments could still do the inspections if they are asked.
Jones County Environmental Specialist Maggie Graham gave a report for Jones County inspections for April through June. The report lists a total of 28 food service inspections, four tourist inspections and two pool inspections.
She said Jones County has a total of 42 permitted food service facilities.
Graham said the county issued 70 new wastewater permits and 52 new well site permits. The report listed 47 animal bite investigations, three animals tested for rabies and no animals positive for rabies.
Nursing manager Sherry Bryant said the Jones County Health Department had been busy with COVID testing and contact investigations. She said the school-based flu shot program would be different this year. She said the shots would be given with a drivethru at the health department.
Bryant said the schools did not want the shots given on school campuses.
Sylvia Woodford gave the financial statement for the period ending June 30, which is the end of the health department’s fiscal year.
She said the total revenues were $869,374 and expenses were $559,842. The excess revenue was $309,531 and the total cash in the bank was $534,792.
NCHD Director Dr. Renee Haynes gave an update of the COVID-19 numbers. She said Jones County remained an area of concern and would be monitored closely.
Haynes said in the past two weeks the age group with the highest positive cases was 35–49.
The director ended her report with congratulations to Bryant for achieving 25 years of service with public health.
“That is a big commitment. We are lucky to have her,” Haynes said.
The next meeting date for the Jones County Board of Health is Dec. 2.