TOLEDO – On Monday, the Tama County Board of Supervisors joined a scheduled Board of Health meeting to discuss an ongoing dispute. At the Board of Health’s March meeting, two separate payments were approved, totaling nearly $13,000. These payments were to two homeowners who had their septic systems tampered with by former Tama County Sanitation Specialist Todd Apfel.
The misreported septic system problems were not brought up until recent years by Tama County’s new sanitation chief, Chris Behrens, who took over after Apfel’s resignation. Since homeowners with this problem are paying thousands to fix the problem, the Board of Health felt it was only right to help with the costs. These payments are included in the board’s 2024 fiscal year budget, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors and will be paid on July 1.
It wasn’t until Board of Supervisors attorney Carlton Salmons read a Tama-Toledo Chronicle article on the case that he was told about the charges. Board of Health members attended the June 19 Board of Supervisors meeting and spoke with Salmons on speakerphone, but no issues were resolved. The Board of Supervisors threatened to sue the Board of Health. So all the lawyers were sitting between the two boards before they had a good relationship.
Discussions between the board began with the board of supervisors requesting a copy of all health board policies. Salmons told health board members that this was to ensure they were passing their policies according to the law.
“I brought the law, let’s talk about it. Copies for all, free. Gratis and I’m not a spoof,” he said.
Soon, the subject took a few twists and turns.
“I guess as a supervisor, I’m talking, I just want to know. How did we get to this point? Supervisor Kurt Hilmer asked.
Hilmer spoke about the unreasonable possibility of the county suing the county. As they went back and forth, Salmons went and gave Hilmer a copy of the law he had brought. After Hilmer said that everything was getting out of hand, Salmens replied, “Yes, sir, because you don’t care about the law.”
“No, I care about what’s right,” replied Hilmer.
Salmons went on to explain that Iowa law has a statute of limitations. After two years of approval of a faulty septic system, the county cannot pay any claims. Because the statute of limitations has passed in both homeowner cases, the $13,000 payment the Tama County Board of Health authorized in March is illegal.
On July 1, the petition to not pay the two homeowners was approved by the Board of Health.
After Tama County Supervisors Bill Fairclose and Dan Anderson sat quietly behind their attorneys for a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Board of Health Vice Chair Dr. Polly Hinman spoke directly to them. Dr. Heinemann spoke about the approach of the supervisors.
“You could have come to us as a board instead of going to your council and being so busy because we don’t know either. And this was handled very poorly on behalf of the Board of Supervisors in my opinion, and in the future, I ask that you try to be a little kinder to your volunteer board members.