On Oct. 8 of last year, Farmington had a candidate forum with the seven candidates for the two township trustee positions. During the forum, candidates were asked our thoughts on the Trumbull County Health Department.
Most of us agreed that there are problems with the Health Department. Incumbent Kevin Bontrager and I expressed the strongest opinions, agreeing that the Health Department is inconsistent and corrupt. Another candidate, John Spelich, disagreed with us and was particularly perturbed that I used the word corrupt. This was not surprising considering that his wife works there.
Mr. Bontrager and I won the election. Last month, we attended the Ohio Township Association conference in Columbus. While we were gone, someone from the Health Department along with someone from the Ohio EPA came to the small grocery store that the Bontragers own in West Farmington Village.
They asked the employee there about whether they have a food service license. (They don't serve food.) They went outside and looked around but did not leave any paperwork. Soon after, the Bontragers received a letter from the Ohio EPA informing them that they need to begin the process of upgrading the septic for their business.
There are over 200 homes and businesses in West Farmington Village, and the majority of them have failing or non-compliant septic systems. Why were the Bontragers singled out?
The village will be getting a sewer system put in sometime in the next couple of years. They have begun asking people to sign easements and the bids are supposed to be taken for the project this summer.
Additionally, this is a very small store. In fact, the store used only 4,400 gallons of water last year, which is about what a home uses in a month, so it is doubtful that they are even producing yearly what a home produces monthly.
The timing here is also suspect. How convenient is it that an inspection occurred at one of the few times when Mr. Bontrager is out of town?
A public records request made to the Health Department for the complaint that triggered the inspection discovered that there was no formal complaint, but an anonymous phone call was received on Oct. 16 stating that the Bontragers were scooping ice cream, have a slushie machine, and serve coffee. The Bontragers have never served scooped ice cream at their current location. Their slushie machine is seasonal and permitted under their license. They brew coffee at the store, but do not sell it.
The inspector who took that call had inspected the Bontrager's store previously and knew all these things, and yet for some reason made the decision to trigger an OEPA investigation.
That anonymous complaint came about a week after the candidate forum was put on YouTube. Is there a connection?
Something smells funny here, and it isn't the Bontrager's septic.
Why is it that episodes like this seem to occur more frequently in our county?
When will these things cease being Trumbull County normal?
Yoder is a Farmington township trustee