Belmont County Board of Health Mulls Housing Code

Photos by Linda Comins Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas speaks Monday at a Belmont County Board of Health meeting as Chief Deputy James Zusack looks on.

The Belmont County Board of Health plans to explore the possible creation of a county housing code in response to deplorable living conditions discovered last week at a trailer outside Bridgeport.

Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas, Chief Deputy James Zusack and Childrens Services Administrator Christine Parker appeared at the Board of Health’s regular meeting Monday to discuss the incident that was investigated Thursday at Presidential Estates near Bridgeport.

Lucas thanked the health department for sending personnel to the scene.

“Your documentation will be very vital in our criminal and civil proceedings,” he said.

During Thursday’s incident, two children — a 1-year-old and a 9-month-old — were removed from the mobile home and placed with foster parents. Five adults were arrested on felony charges.

Arrested on two charges of endangering children, a fourth-degree felony, were Paul McEndree, 41, and Kathy Jo McEndree, 41, the property owners; Brittany McEndree, 18, and Maggie Gray, 21, the children’s mothers; and a father, Jason Frazer, 21. The McEndrees face additional charges of cruelty to animals, a second-degree misdemeanor.

“That trailer needs to be drug out and burnt,” Lucas said. “It’s the worst I’ve seen in 38 or 39 years.”

The sheriff asked the Board of Health to consider establishing sanitary living standards to provide more leverage in such matters. He said regulations are needed for unincorporated portions of the county.

“Villages or cities can make ordinances that can be no less (restrictive) than the Ohio Revised Code but can be a lot more major,” Lucas said. “We don’t have that luxury (for unincorporated areas) under the Ohio Revised Code.”

In response, the Board of Health directed Rich Lucas, director of environmental health, to conduct research and write a proposed building sanitary code for the county. In agreement were board president Dwight Jenewein and board members James King, Joel Braido, Irene Louda, Elizabeth Glick and Dr. Renato DelaCruz. Braido asked that a proposal be ready for review in mid-October.

Braido also suggested existing regulations in Belmont County’s villages and cities be studied to avoid duplication. Rich Lucas agreed, saying, “Maybe our code could just be in unincorporated areas. We don’t want to take over (enforcement) in villages and cities.”

The cost of investigating complaints and enforcing sanitary living conditions also was discussed.

“If the county elects to do it, we’d have to find funds or grants to do it,” the sheriff said.

Louda suggested the costs be addressed in any potential code. She predicted the health department would be busy with complaints to investigate if housing rules were enacted.

In other matters, Tiffany Vcelka was introduced as the health department’s new administrative assistant. She replaces Patricia Van Fossen who resigned.

Linda Mehl, director of nursing, said the number of childhood immunizations increased this summer in preparation for the new school year. She said 187 clients were served in August, compared to 123 clients for the same month last year.

Mehl said she is waiting to hear whether requests for a maternal health grant and a crib grant will be approved. She said the proposal to purchase cribs for families in need is a collaborative effort with the Jefferson County health department.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is scheduled for noon Oct. 9 at the health department, 68501 Bannock Road, St. Clairsville. The session is delayed for a day because of the Columbus Day holiday Oct. 8.

COMMENTS