The Ravalli County Board of Health hearing last week, scheduled for the first reading of the revised Wastewater Regulations, didn’t just get off to a rocky start, it was scuttled on the rocks and adjourned without ever getting started. With little room for seating, the commissioners’ meeting room quickly filled to overflowing. The County Health Officer informed the board that the meeting would have to be cancelled and rescheduled when accommodations could be made to meet distancing requirements due to the community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
When Chairman Jeff Burrows announced that the meeting would possibly be rescheduled at a future date in the First Interstate building, so that more people could attend and still meet distancing requirements, a hubbub emerged from some of the public.
Burrows said that they had been going through this wastewater regulation review process for two years and there had never been this much participation, so they were surprised that so many people showed up. He said he understood now that a lot of people want to be a part of the process. He said they were still a long way out from the adoption of any regulations and there would be lots of opportunity to participate and lots of time to email, write a letter or otherwise comment.
Burrows also noted that there was a lot of misinformation floating around about the old regulations and the new and how they differ. He said it wasn’t a brand new thing. He said there were a few things changed and a couple of amendments made and they will be considering those and working them out, but mostly it’s the same old regulations.
When Burrows suggested that the crowd spread out, some moving into the hallway, he met instant resistance from Terri Lackey, who said, “We are fine. We are not going to spread out. It’s not going to happen. It’s not a law.”
There were comments like, “We have a right to peaceably assemble” countered by comments such as “We have the right not to be infected with dangerous diseases.”
When Burrows decided to set a date and time for another meeting, Lackey responded, saying “you can hold it anywhere you want but we are not social distancing and you can’t make us wear a mask.”
Burrows urged everyone to familiarize themselves with the proposed changes. “Before you say ‘I heard that someone heard that someone on Facebook said’ read the regulations, pick up the phone and my phone number, all our phone numbers are on the county web site.”
One woman said she didn’t have to read the county regulations because she experienced them and she called them “communistic.”
Burrows said, “Before you come here with your torches and pitchforks, just take the regulations and read it and know what you are talking about when you come here. That’s all we are asking. Before you call it a Communist manifesto just pick it up and read it and know what you are talking about before you start throwing at it.”
“Generally, we heard,” said Burrows. “We hear you don’t like your new wastewater regulations. We get that.”
Asked once again to continue the meeting, it was stated that the Health Officer closed the meeting because it didn’t meet the COVID-19 Reopening Phase 2 guidelines.
“Well, we the people disagree,” said Lackey. “And we the people are telling you today that we are over it. You do not run us. You work for us and we are done. So we are going to come to this next meeting but we are not going to social distance, we are not going to wear masks, and we are going to have our voices heard. Is that understood? You work for us.”