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Editorial: Clear out the toxins

Correction Discussion in a Feb. 16 editorial mentioned that Sherman County’s representative on the Household Hazardous Waste advisory committee would recommend his county pull out of the “program” if it were housed at Wasco County, instead of at North Central Public Health District. The program referred to was the hazardous waste program, not the overall public health program.

Reporter Neita Cecil’s Feb. 14 story, “Waste role sparks county conflict,” no doubt leaves readers with a few questions. The main question? Why has one small function within the North Wasco Public Health become such a bone of contention?

Sherman County’s representative on the health district board, County Commissioner Mike Smith, said publicly he plans to recommend Sherman County withdraw from the organization if Wasco County takes over administration of the household hazardous waste program.

Meanwhile the hazardous waste steering committee has unanimously recommended that the function move to Wasco County after reviewing proposals from both the health board and the county.

On the surface the reasoning seems clear: The primary reason to have a household hazardous waste function is to protect the health of the public. Thus, its function appears to fit better within the category of public health.

But the reasoning behind the request for a change had little or nothing to do with with that particular piece of logic. Instead, a representative of the steering committee cited the complaint that health district process may not be as transparent as the committee would like: poor meeting minutes, obscure staffing allocation, a desire for more clarity where the budget is concerned.

Those claims are, of course, disputed by the executive director of the health district. She says she has responded to requests for information.

Both organizations, health and county, claim the right to administer the function. But right doesn’t mean should.

Of biggest concern here isn’t where the household hazardous waste function is housed. Even though its mission is perhaps best aligned with public health, it is distinct enough that itcould undoubtedly operate under either umbrella.

The biggest concern here is the continued participation of Sherman County in the public health partnership. Long before it became North Central Public Health, the organization was Wasco-Sherman Public Health. The potential withdrawal of Sherman County from the partnership could have devastating consequences. And Smith has a right to be concerned, especially if it means Sherman County will lose hazardous waste service, or the shared district will lose some funding from its Wasco County partner as a result.

We suspect there is more at issue than the surface claims, otherwise this question already would have been resolved.

This issue needs a frank and specific face-to-face airing of concerns — either in a public forum or at the least between the staffs of the respective agencies. The public health partnership between Sherman and Wasco counties is too valuable to put at risk.

Weather Masters

While most of us were still snug in our beds, the Wasco County and City of The Dalles road crews were on the road, making sure we had the best chance of getting around while the snow was on the ground.

We can’t say it enough: These folks deserve our gratitude.

More important than anything else, they keep our emergency response routes open so that crises don’t end in catastrophe.

Passable roads also help keep our economy rolling so difficult weather doesn’t yield devastating financial consequences.

And, finally, they help keep residents from being trapped at home when bad weather strikes. It’s a big job, so the plow and sander may not make it around the first day, as workers see to the most immediate needs. They are dealing with the priorities that have been set for them through a community process to establish priorities.

So thanks to all you folks who worked long shifts in the cold to help keep us safe.

In fact, thanks to all the people who serve the community — the delivery people, equipment technicians, linemen and others who make our lives easier — regardless of the weather.

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