Saturday, February 04, 2023

Health board keeps liaison positions vacant, disbands Superfund committee

Daily Inter Lake | February 22, 2022 7:00 AM

Health board members last week put its focus area liaison position for asbestos issues on ice and formally disbanded its committee dedicated to institutional controls at the Superfund site.

The move comes after the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners assumed oversight of the Asbestos Resource Program in early 2021. As such, health board members agreed Feb. 8 to nix future updates from George Jamison, who serves as both boards’ advisor on the Superfund site and acts as a go-between with ARP.

Jamison, on hand for the discussion, cautioned members against similarly striking regular ARP updates from the agenda when Jan Ivers suggested doing away with the reports. She pointed out that ARP officials also update commissioners on a monthly basis regarding the agency’s work.

“Remember that this health board is solely vested with the ability to institute formal institutional controls,” Jamison said. “I think it’s appropriate that you maintain [a relationship] even though the reports may be brief. For you, I think it is important.”

Jamison served as vice chair of the health board when the body created the liaison positions and began recruiting for the steering committee in 2017. In the years since, he also has worked alongside state officials and lawmakers as a resident member of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Oversight Committee.

Jamison agreed with the board’s move to put focus area liaisons on the backburner.

Amy Fantozzi, Libby’s representative to the board, made the motion to leave liaison positions vacant. Ivers offered a second. The vote was unanimous.

A few minutes later, members laid the institutional controls steering committee to rest.

“Basically, the role and function of the steering committee is complete,” Jamison said. “I think their mission is complete. They did some great work, I’ll tell you.”

When established, the committee was tasked with developing the procedures and processes to protect the EPA’s remedy for the Superfund site as well as manage any future release of the material.

“I think it’d be a good judgment to say they finished what you asked them to do,” Jamison said.

Fantozzi and north Lincoln County at-large member Patti Kincheloe applauded Jamison’s assessment.

But Jim Seifert, Troy’s representative to the health board, asked about the likelihood of bringing back the committee owing to some future unforeseen situation.

“It is a possibility,” Jamison said after a moment of thought.

While Seifert lobbied for similarly putting the committee on ice, County Commissioner Josh Letcher (D-3) pointed out that the committee had stopped meeting. Were the committee reinstated, many of the original members likely would have moved on to other endeavors.

Fantozzi, who ultimately made the motion to disband the committee, argued that the health board could recreate it if the need arose. And Nick Raines, environmental health specialist with the county health department, said that a future committee likely would need different types of expertise than the original body.

“The role of the group will really be different, should that need arise,” he said.

Ultimately, Seifert joined his colleagues in voting unanimously to disband the committee.