SW 092616 Emissions vote 02

Weber-Morgan Health Board member Ken Johnson, right, discusses the proposed diesel emissions testing program during the board’s monthly meeting Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, at their building in Ogden. The board voted unanimously to approve the program.

OGDEN — Potholes at the intersection of politics and public health appear to have paved the way for possible restructuring of the Weber-Morgan Health Board.

In mid-2016, board members hit an impasse over diesel emissions testing programs. While their Air Quality Advisory Board had recommended such programs a few months earlier to help address Weber’s poor air quality, most of the seven elected officials who served on the 11-member board balked at requiring diesel testing for privately owned vehicles. But remaining board members backed the idea, and subsequent public outcry in favor of diesel testing decried the board’s lopsided composition.

Weber-Morgan health board has unusually high dose of politics

In late September, board members finally approved emissions testing for diesel-powered trucks and cars that weighed 14,000 pounds or less and were manufactured in 1998 or later. That rule took effect in January 2017. And in a 7-2 vote Monday, board members approved a recommendation that the panel expand to 13 members — of which only three would be elected officials. 

New year, new diesel rule in Weber County

“We have no representatives from any of the hospitals or school districts,” at-large board member Dave Holmstrom said Monday. “That’s the whole intent here, to create more opportunities for different people to serve.”

Significant differences in the board’s structure include decreasing the number of Weber County Commission slots from three to one and whittling elected Weber Area Council of Government (WACOG) representatives from two to one. The 13-member board would include: 

• one Weber County commissioner

• one Morgan County council member

• one at-large Morgan County representative

• one Ogden City representative

•  one WACOG representative

• one Weber Medical Society representative

• one rotating representative for the Ogden and Weber school districts

• one Weber State University representative who specializes in health administration or public health

• one Weber Human Services representative

• one rotating representative for Ogden Regional and McKay Dee hospitals

• one representative for Midtown Community Health Center in Ogden

• one representative for environmental interests

• one representative for local business interests

The proposal recommends each member be appointed “on the basis of their interest and/or experience in public health matters.”

Weber County Commissioner Jim Harvey, who took office in January 2017, helped draft the changes.

“We felt it was good to have people who are in the health industry all day every day being represented here on this board,” Harvey said of the shift in composition.

But Commissioner Kerry Gibson questioned why a complete board overhaul was necessary, offering a different perspective.

“As valuable as every one of these individuals on the list are ... my suggestion is to add them without limiting what we have today in the number of elected officials,” Gibson said. “I know there are those who think that elected officials have been maybe slower to get to certain conclusions than others, but ... there is a tremendous amount of taxpayer money that is spent through this department, and it’s important for my taxpayers to be able to pick up the phone and call an elected official that happens to serve on this board and to be able to get response from this board.”

Board member Frank Brown, a family practice physician in North Ogden, agreed with Gibson regarding oversight of taxpayer dollars, but pointed to existing checks and balances that already safeguard those funds.

“Commissioners have the ultimate say of who is on the board, and have to approve all the people appointed to the board. So obviously there’s oversight in that regard,” Brown said. “And they are the bottom line, in any event, for fiscal responsibility and approving the Board of Health budget ... I think this is a good compromise and I’m excited to see some of these people as potential members of the Board of Health.”

Gibson and Morgan County Councilman Roland Haslam voted against the change, while Leonard Call — Pleasant View’s new mayor — abstained. Board members voting in favor included Chairman Ken Johnson (associate dean for Weber State University’s Dumke College of Health Professions), Vice-Chairman and Ogden City Councilman Neil Garner, Weber County Commissioners Harvey and James Ebert, Brown and Tina Kelley (at-large representative from Morgan County).

North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who recently deployed to Afghanistan, could not attend Monday’s meeting.

The board’s recommendation now requires consideration and approval by the Weber County Commission and the Morgan County Council before it can take effect. 

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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