Ohio County Board of Health Welcomes New Member, Discusses Permit Fees

Elisabeth Slater of Wheeling was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health.

Ohio County Clerk Michael Kelly administered the oath of office to Slater, a Wheeling attorney, at the board’s regular meeting. The Ohio County Commission appointed Slater to replace Christian Turak, who has moved out of the county.

During its meeting, the board approved the addition of two categories to its permit fee structure for retail farmers consignment markets, such as the Grow Ohio Valley public market planned at the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Center, and for vendors selling eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and fish at mobile retail farmers markets.

Voting for the measure were board president Dr. John Holloway and board members Laura Wakim Chapman, Thomas Tuttle and Slater. Board members Chad Thalman and Terry Sterling were absent.

Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County health department, said state rules have been changed to give oversight of farmers markets to the state Department of Agriculture, with the exception of retail farmers markets, which remain under the jurisdiction of county health departments.

Under the motion approved by the board, retail farmers consignment markets will be charged a licensing fee of $50 for each cash register, Gamble said. He added that supermarkets also are charged a fee for each register.

Vendors who sell dairy, meat, poultry and fish at mobile retail farmers markets must pay a $50 permit fee. Only one permit is required to sell multiple products, he said.

However, vendors who sell only eggs at mobile retail farmers markets will pay a $15 permit fee under the measure enacted Tuesday. Gamble, who recommended the egg-only fee, said the West Virginia University Extension Service suggested the lower fee because egg sales don’t produce a large profit margin.

In other business, the board approved a 5 percent pay raise for staff of the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, effective April 1. Gamble said the pay hike is covered in the federally-funded WIC budget and doesn’t include any health department funds.

The pay raise will be given to WIC’s regular civil service employees, both full- and part-time. He said the state WIC office approved the higher wages as a tool to recruit staff, especially nutritionists.

Meanwhile, Dr. William Mercer, county health officer, said donations are still being made to Project HOPE’s recent Winter Walk, He expects final proceeds from the fundraiser to be close to $22,000.

With the Winter Freeze Shelter scheduled to close for the season on Friday, Project HOPE’s weekly rounds of homeless outreach will shift to Tuesday nights. Mercer said two teams, with about 40 volunteers, visit homeless encampments and shelters to provide medical care and other services.

On a positive note, Gamble said the state budget, which is awaiting Gov. Jim Justice’s signature, provides $1.5 million in additional resources for public health departments.

Only two bills passed in this year’s legislative session have an impact on public health, he said. House Bill 2945 allows vendors to pay a single fee for a temporary permit to sell food anywhere in the state. Senate Bill 285 allows the sale of homemade, non-hazardous food in any venue.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is set for noon May 14 at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

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