Lack of public input for WAC is embarrassing

There are a couple of fundamental questions in the conflict between the U.S. Department of Energy, the Ohio EPA and local elected officials in Pike County regarding a radiological landfill at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Should DOE have formally informed the public on the contaminants that were to go inside the landfill before the waste disposition decision document (Record of Decision) was finalized in 2015?

Should there have been formal meetings specific to WAC before the 2014 Public Comment Meeting and the 2015 ROD that would have allowed the public to ask detailed questions and been fully informed at the time input for the decision documents was sought?

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding, yes. The reality is that neither of those things happened, resulting in a resounding failure on the issue of public involvement for Waste Acceptance Criteria.

It is hard to fathom a more clumsy approach to public interaction on something as crucial as a landfill that contains radiological constituents. First, there was no public engagement on WAC, at all. Not some, not a little, not a miniscule amount. None. People in Southern Ohio couldn’t even have told the DOE what the WAC acronym stood for before and following the issuance of the ROD.

Strike One.

During the process leading up to the 2015 decision, DOE told the public it would have an opportunity for input on the WAC after the ROD was signed, that there were facets of the WAC that would be completed over time and that the public would have their chance. Then, mysteriously, that opportunity never came.

Strike Two.

As it became clear the public was sold a bill of goods, local elected officials began calling for the Record of Decision to be reopened so that the Waste Acceptance Criteria could be altered to reflect the community’s values on the WAC. At the very least, they claimed formal meetings were required to give the public an outlet to have a say on what kind of radiological materials would go into their environment.

They called on DOE, they called on the Ohio EPA, they called on members of the Ohio delegation. Deaf ears all around.

The Ohio EPA has been criticized by local officials for working in concert with DOE on these matters. Following Tuesday’s virtual call where the Ohio EPA announced it would in fact approve the WAC Implementation Plan without so much as a public meeting lends credibility to those criticisms, brings the Ohio EPA’s independence into question, and makes the public wonder just who the organization is working for, since it apparently is not the public that will be on the receiving end of these hazardous constituents.

Strike Three.

Three strikes usually means an out. In this case, it just means that the promise of a regulatory process where public involvement was supposed to occur was nothing more than a façade. And to now see DOE and Ohio EPA fumble around and try to justify the process and claim the public truly did have their opportunity can only be described one way.

It’s an embarrassment.

Local outrage from elected officials was predictable. Piketon Councilwoman Jennifer Chandler’s frustration at the Ohio delegation is warranted. Pike County Commissioner Tony Montgomery now believes the last move the community can make is to determine whether the public can finally get heard, this time in a court of law, which is a tall proposition.

Still, it is worth noting that the Ohio EPA in its Tuesday meeting identified the key regulatory documents in the cleanup program. The first was the Ohio EPA Director’s Final Findings & Orders, which was originally approved in 2010.

In that document, which outlined the entire regulatory framework for the Portsmouth cleanup project, there is an unambiguous statement and it outlines the definition of Waste Acceptance Criteria.

““Waste Acceptance Criteria" ("WAC") means the criteria developed by Respondent with community input and approved by Ohio EPA which specify standards that must be met by each waste prior to its acceptance into any onsite disposal facility, if such a facility is selected as a remedy pursuant to these Orders. The criteria must specify: waste evaluation and characterization standards, waste physical characteristics standards, waste packaging standards, waste safe handling standards, waste transportation standards, activity criteria and chemical concentration criteria.”

There is a premise in that statement that the WAC was to be developed with community input. Well, that input was never allowed to occur. Not some, not a little, not a miniscule amount. None.

Whether that alone constitutes a legal argument that could allow the public to finally have some level of participation remains to be seen. What is not up for debate is that radiological waste is scheduled to go into the ground in Southern Ohio next year without so much as a formal meeting for people to say whether it’s acceptable.

To see that as anything other than an embarrassment is to be completely out of touch with the principles of a Democratic society.

Communities must deal with pedophilia directly

     Pedophilia is not rampant in all of our institutions. Despite reports involving clergy, physicians, teachers and scout leaders that hit our news cycle, only 5 percent of sex offenders are apprehended.

     Community outrage is understandable when one of these high-profile cases emerges. In fact, only 1-4 percent of the population are affected by this disorder. The incidence is high enough that parents, grandparents and responsible adults need to learn the signs and know how to take action.

     Cries that something should have been done earlier are always justifiable, but are they realistic? The profile of a pedophile makes reporting and getting witnesses difficult. Typically, the person is popular with children and interacts well with all; has good standing in the community with no criminal record; grooms children with attention and favors and increased touching; is often male, well-educated and more religious than others. Victims are often from middle class families, but may be shy or troubled.

     The public often assumes that these are people who are frustrated homosexuals, but that’s not usually true. Most are married with children and have the appearance of heterosexual lives. The community needs to have in place a system from investigation through the courts that is willing to confront a popular or powerful person and allows the victim to remain safe and anonymous while that investigation is carried out.

     Before the “Me Too” movement and the crisis in the Catholic Church, which created a cultural shift, most accusations of sexual abuse were ignored and difficult to prosecute. Our culture was not ready to believe that “good” people could do such “bad” things.

     Many said that they didn’t want to cause trouble or challenge a person of status. Whatever your opinion of these movements, they have moved forward the rights of victims and given many a credible voice. Victims usually believe they were to blame and that they were alone in the suffering. We know from many high-profile cases that reporting may take years, even decades. This is one reason that Ohio needs to remove the statute of limitations timeline.

     Now that the police and court systems are dealing with these cases more frequently, what can parents do? Parents need to know the people in the life of a child. In this time of electronic communication, the face-to-face meeting is less prevalent, but crucially important. If a child indicates that he or she doesn’t feel comfortable with an adult, listen and ask questions.

     If you notice a change of behavior in your child such as temper tantrums, social isolation or acting out, talk to your child and if there are warning signs of inappropriate behavior, listen carefully and reassure the child that you are listening and will check on their concerns. All professionals who work with children are required to report abuse if suspected. It is best to let the agencies trained to respond to these complaints do the investigation and not try to take care of the issue personally. The child does not need to deal with a vigilante parent in addition to a trusted adult who has become a pedophile.

     Dealing with abhorrent sexual behavior is not new to society. We tend to think that more people are involved, but that is not the case. The reporting, response and ability to share information quickly has changed dramatically in just a few years.

     While that might leave parents worried that they can’t trust traditional groups such as churches, doctors or scout leaders, that is far from the truth. We are experiencing a positive change in reporting, charging and dealing with negative behavior.

     Hurting children is not OK, keeping silent is not OK, making excuses is not OK. We will be better as a society for facing and dealing with the issue of pedophilia.

Health care industry needs transparency on costs

     It is a bit disconcerting that a review of billing practices at two Pike County health care facilities has revealed that patients were overcharged for services.

     The facilities in question – Adena’s Waverly Health Center at 12340 State Route 104 and the Southern Ohio Medical Center’s Waverly Health Center – also charge for care beyond urgent care services. Pike County commissioners Blaine Beekman, Tony Montgomery and Jerry Miller are correct in their assertion that the facilities appear to be urgent cares based on how they are marketed.

     “There are signs on the building that say, ‘Urgent Care.’ It’s unfair to bill at a higher rate and promote the facility as an urgent care,” Montgomery said in June. “That sounds like a bait and switch and it is a misrepresentation of the services they provide.”

     But that’s not the full extent of the issue. There is a more systemic problem and what has been discovered in Pike County because of the interaction from the county commissioners could be an issue in other places.

     That’s because the ultimate amount of money a patient has to pay is a convoluted formula between hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, the quality of insurance someone has, copay parameters, deductibles, and other variables. That is not to place blame on any of those entities individually, but the Pike County commissioners leap into the sausage making has revealed that not even those involved in the billing always have a clear idea on what is accurate.

     Adena and SOMC should be commended for their involvement with the task force to try to improve the billing process to make sure patients are charged fairly. But those efforts should not just be for that limited number of patients, there should be a comprehensive review that ensures that is true for all patients in all places from everyone in the health care industry.

     That would be in everyone’s interests. American health care professionals claim that the United States has the very best health care in the world, a position that has merit. But it doesn’t do much good if people can’t afford the services and, in many cases, don’t even know what the cost of the services are until they get a bill after the fact.

     That does not lead to consumer confidence and is a large part of the reason many people do not go to the doctor as often as they should. All of that reveals a common thread through this whole issue.

     The public desperately needs more transparency from health care professionals at every level.

     How much does it cost to treat a broken arm? How much does it cost to have an appendectomy? How much does it cost to have a knee replacement? No one can answer those questions because the answer is different based on insurance plans and other factors. But the cost of the service itself should be clearly communicated by health care providers and known by patients, who can then be armed with information when making health care-related decisions.

     There are few products or services Americans receive without first knowing the cost. Health care should not be one of them.

New congressional district needs alignment

     A little more than two years ago, Ohio voters wisely passed a constitutional amendment to correct the inefficiencies with Ohio’s method for drawing congressional districts.

     The lack of bipartisan involvement in the process resulted in Ohio being called out as one of the nation’s worst examples of congressional gerrymandering. The jury is still out on the benefits of the amendment and the proof will be in the pudding as to whether the effort was worthwhile.

     One of the purposes of the amendment, as written when voters considered it, read:

     “End the partisan process for drawing congressional districts, and replace it with a process with the goals of promoting bipartisanship, keeping local communities together, and having district boundaries that are more compact.”

     We could not agree more, particularly the “keeping local communities together” reference.

     Most would agree that our “community” would include Jackson, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties. The fracturing of the region’s two biggest counties - Ross and Scioto – was a deterrent and certainly not in the region’s interests.

     We want to be perfectly clear that this is not an indictment on any of the three current officeholders – Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6th), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-15th) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd). It is not a criticism nor a suggestion that these men have not worked hard to represent our region, but it is noticed that none of these three representatives live within an hour of our four counties that have been historically connected politically, socially and economically.

     Their performances in office and their positions on various issues can and should be considered separately. This has to do with the fact our region falls into parts of three different congressional districts, which lessens the region’s strength by fracturing its voice.

     The U.S. Census Bureau must report its information to the president by the end of the year and that will determine the number of districts to be drawn. That will begin an important process to configure Ohio’s congressional lines, this time hopefully in a more bipartisan manner. That is a step in the right direction and hopefully it will lead those in the process to a fairer district for our part of Ohio.

     It’s time to put South-central Ohio back where it belongs … together.

Southern Ohio farmers facing many challenges

     Most farmers in southern Ohio planted late this year for the second year in a row. Heavy rains followed by several frosty late May nights resulted in a most unusual July farmscape.

     Much of the corn was not yet knee high on the Fourth of July and the soybeans are shriveling now for lack of water. If the weather and uncertain international trade agreements aren’t enough to test the tolerance of seasoned farmers, how about the most recent spat between the courts and the EPA?

     For soybean growers the discussion over GMO and non-GMO beans has seemingly run its course. Most growers in our area plant GMO beans and depend on the appropriate herbicide to control noxious weeds. On June 3, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA made multiple errors in granting conditional registrations for three products used with Dicambra tolerant soybeans. Those products are Xtendimax, Engenia and FeXapan. The Court found that the EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by understating or entirely failing to acknowledge risks. 

     This decision impacts current soybean growers who have beans designed to use these products in the ground. Current farmers need a chemistry degree to know the constraints of glyphosate versus glufosinate or Dicambra versus 2 4-D. They do know that once a bean is in the ground the companion herbicide is the only one that will work, not just any other product off the shelf. 

     The “Iowa Successful Farming” website states that the Department of Agriculture in Iowa will not order a stop sell order until the EPA requires one. Farmers should never have been put in this situation. If the products failed safety tests, or the labeling was inappropriate, the EPA should never have allowed a registration in 2018. 

     Vendors must be responsible to growers and not sell a product if litigation is likely to render the product inferior. Growers need to add following up on newly registered chemicals to be sure that they are not involved in controversy that may lead to termination.

     Farmers are facing some of the worst years in recent history. If you ask a farmer “How’s it going?” the response may be “other than the weather, the prices, the government and the trade wars, just fine.” In other words “it can’t get worse.”

     On top of these hardships farmers have now been impacted by the national pandemic. Fewer people are eating out, demand is down and prices are dropping once again. It may be time to stop saying that it can’t get any worse.

Parents need to exhibit patience with area schools

     As policymakers and educators continue the difficult process of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone agrees on two things. Our children have to be safe and our children must be educated.

     Every school district in southern Ohio and the state is trying to determine how to reconcile what can be conflicting objectives. One other thing is for certain. Now is not the time for ill-informed armchair quarterbacks.

     As a general rule, the citizenry should always scrutinize school board policies and the decisions being made by school leaders. Few people can have such a profound impact on a community than the people who are making decisions about how to educate our young people.

     In these times, however, superintendents, school board members, principals and other school leaders are trying to thread a needle of legal requirements, COVID-19 protocols, community expectations, cultural influences and good, old-fashioned common sense.

     It should also be understood that, as most things involving COVID, there is not a one-size fits all solution. How Chillicothe High School in Ross County handles lunches with its number of students might be a world away from how Green High School in Scioto County handles it with its smaller numbers.

     A number of factors could lead to different ways schools handle scheduling, busing, lunches, and a host of other logistical challenges.

These are not easy days for leaders in education and it should be recognized that there will be inconsistencies from district to district because each district has its own set of characteristics.

     Every community in southern Ohio elected board members to go about the business of keeping our children safe and educating them. Now is the time to let them and those they have trusted in their respective administrations do their jobs, the jobs we expect them to do, in coordination with state education and health professionals.

     Be involved, be supportive and if there are concerns or criticisms, make them in a way that is constructive and helps solve the broad challenges our educators are facing.

     This can be a time when our local educators can shine. It can be their finest hour, but they are going to need patience and understanding from parents and citizens. When we hear that we can all get through this pandemic together, this is what it looks like.

     It’s time to help lift our educators up and not drag them to the ground.

If we want to be heard, we better get to the polls

     “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

- From the Declaration of Independence

     Voting is a right and a responsibility. 

     Many Americans have died to defend our right to maintain a system grounded in the ballot box. In our four-county area, voter participation is similar to other parts of the state and country. Since 2008 there have only been four general elections with a voter turnout of more than 50 percent in Ohio. Those were in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2018. 

     In Ross, Jackson, Pike and Scioto counties, the turnout in the last three years has ranged from a low of 15% for the March primary in 2020 to a high of 53% in the 2018 general election.

     Why do Americans choose not to vote? According to most citizens think that a single vote will not make a difference. Many local, state and national elections have been decided by fewer than 100 votes. All votes count. 

     If you think that politics is too complicated or noisy be ready to exchange your apathy for poor representation. Your failure to be involved could lead to representatives who pay attention to areas with a higher voter turnout and ignore low turnout areas.

     Candidates are equally bad, why vote? The perception of a candidate may come from TV ads or social media, which are biased. Visit websites and find out what candidates support. Being a candidate is increasingly expensive and disruptive to family life. Voters need information about a candidate, not the children, spouse and neighborhood. Ignore negative advertising; follow candidates that give information about themselves more than criticism of an opponent. 

     Australia has mandated voting since 1924. Voting day is a Saturday and often a festive event. Over 96 percent of the eligible voters are registered and at least 90 percent vote in each election. The fine for not voting is about $20 for the first offense and goes up for a second offense. Australia has a high percentage of mail in voting and provides well-staffed voting centers so that wait time rarely exceeds 15 minutes. 

     The United States may not be ready for a mandate such as Australia’s, but without increased participation our democracy is at risk.

     Make July a month to check your registration. Visit your county Board of Elections website and click on “Am I registered?” You can register to vote or update your registration on the Secretary of State website at

     Patriotism is so much more than flags and fireworks. Building communities, protecting our schools and waterways, repairing our roads and other infrastructure, protecting citizens from harm … all of these are a function of elected leadership. Teach your children about voting this summer and learn about issues in your area. 

     You count, your vote counts.

Connecting rural Ohio should be state priority

     If you lived in the city, you had it. Electric, water purified from a water plant, telephone, you had it made.

     But if you lived in rural America at the same time, especially in Appalachia, that might not have been the case. You might not have had any of the above.

     Eventually, though, it came. The wires needed for telephone, back when there were very few private lines and party lines were prevalent.

Not so long ago, people who lived in rural areas can remember people who went door to door selling electric service to their neighbors.

     It has been almost 50 years since the water lines began to reach beyond the municipal borders, safe drinking water was available to so many more and that helped change the landscape of rural southern Ohio.

     And although water, cell phone service in today’s world and electric is available in almost all rural areas, one thing that is readily available in the cities but still not in our countryside is broadband and internet service.

     We no longer think of electric, cell phone service or safe drinking water as a luxury, but a necessity.

     And while there might be those who still consider broadband and internet service a luxury to some, it has become just as much a necessity in today’s world and now needs the same effort that was put forth to provide the electric, the telephone and the water to reach everyone long ago.

     If there was ever a final event to bring this to light, it happened this spring when schools had to close and finish school years with students who had to complete their work online.

     But what if you had no service? Drive your child around until they found a Wifi connection?

     And what about all of those people who suddenly had to work from home and had no way to do it? We did it once (telephone), we did it twice (electric), we did it three times (water).

     The time has come for a fourth, and history has shown us it not only can be done, but we realize – and our Ohio Legislature should likewise realize - that now it must be done.

Online meetings still need public involvement

     The whole idea behind having government perform meetings in public is to make sure the citizenry is involved on a number of levels.

     First, government officials who make decisions with our money must do so in the light of day and conduct business so their bosses – the public – can evaluate their decision-making. There is a reason there are rules for executive sessions, meaning the public’s business cannot be performed behind closed doors except for very narrow exceptions.

     Another reason is the actual public involvement that comes from meeting together with constituents. Even though eyes can often roll and some public comments come from citizens who are either overzealous or don’t have a proper perspective of their problem in the bigger scheme of a village, city or county, those people are central to the idea of democracy and open government.

     There are often thoughtful comments, reasonable criticisms, praise, or just ideas meant for problem-solving that can be great tools for regional elected officials. The public’s right to have that engagement is not only valuable, but should be fiercely defended by us all.

     One of the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the creative ways that local governments have tried to communicate with constituents. These elected officials should be commended for doing their best to have online forums where the business of our communities marches forward.

     However, these online meetings come at a cost. Not having meetings where the public is face-to-face with officeholders is not ideal. Naturally, these groups are doing their best to make the most of a bad situation, but the public must still be heard.

     The Editorial Board encourages local governments to still dedicate time for questions and comments from members of the public. Having an online forum with public questions rolling away in a comment section as if they never occurred, is not in the spirit of public dialogue.

     Local governments should chronicle the comments as part of public meetings and give them their proper attention, either during the meeting, as a follow-up or through other avenues. In-person meetings are obviously desired by everyone, but the wisdom on when that should occur might depend on a range of factors and should always happen with proper safety measures in place.

     It is a tricky balance to make sure the public has involvement in online meetings and some have tried to accommodate the public as best they can, but it should be recognized that ensuring the public is involved is as much a responsibility of these boards as any other matter

before them.

Time for southern Ohio's health equity checkup

     In the midst of the worst pandemic and social crisis we have seen in decades, it is time to focus on contributing factors.

     One, health equity is a crisis of its own and one that is discussed but not addressed in a meaningful way. Why? It’s complicated.

     We must learn to do complicated. We have no time to pass the buck and hope someone else will have a popular idea. Start with what is health? Health isn’t just not being sick, it is physical, mental and social well-being.

     Some of the barriers to health equity include poverty, threats from the environment, lack of access to health care, cultural factors that discourage seeking health care and educational background. Yes, that is all complicated, but addressing these issues not only leads to a healthier community, it improves self esteem and improves worker productivity.

     Partners for a Healthier Ross County started in 1996 collecting information that defines barriers to health. Each year the group sets visible goals to better manage chronic diseases like diabetes, COPD and high blood pressure, and to encourage exercise. There are programs like this, clinics and resources now across Southern Ohio. Part of the motivation is that the Affordable Care Act encourages proactive treatment and keeping a person out of the hospital, but more importantly improving health is the right thing to do.

     In Southern Ohio we are better at connection to social media or watching TV than getting up and moving. We live in the middle of rich farmland, but many have forsaken the garden as a source of fresh food and canned goods for the winter. Pride of being independent and able to handle anything often keeps us from seeking medical help when it is needed. Many times we worry that we won’t know what questions to ask or understand the medical conversation and become paralyzed by our own nervousness.

     Support for individuals, access to health close to home, alluring recreational activity and advocates to help navigate the health system are all possible. Motivation is often a problem and change is so hard. As we prepare for this “new normal,” include a plan for improving the health of your family this year. Keep it simple, maybe three ideas such as better meal planning, family game night or recreation, and an annual check-up. The hard part of providing basic medical coverage for all Americans, creating a health care system that is friendly and available and creating the follow-up support programs and facilities to maintain health will require legislation and determination.

     It’s complicated and will require conversation apart from political shows. We are worth it and we should expect our legislative representatives to “do complicated.”

DOE should honor its promises to southern Ohio

     For more than four years, the U.S. Department of Energy and the citizens of southern Ohio have been at odds over the construction of a 300-acre radiological landfill on the reservation of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It has been a tiresome conflict and what everyone really desires is a solution.

     Solutions are typically not that difficult as long as both sides don’t dig in their heels, which is what has happened here. There are no villains in this drama, just people trying to do their best to do their jobs or represent their constituents, but there is clear conflict.

     The first question is, does a radiological landfill make sense for DOE and for the citizens of southern Ohio? The answer is yes, or at least it was once upon a time. When public officials, the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board and other citizens agreed to on-site disposal, it came with certain conditions that had to be met by DOE to give the community a realistic opportunity at reindustrializing the site and replenishing the 2,500 or so jobs that will vanish when the cleanup is completed sometime in the 2040s.

     There were expectations placed upon the Department for such a substantial concession. The intention was for a construction debris landfill that meant residual building debris would remain on site to avoid costly disposition elsewhere. DOE told citizens that the Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) – the terminology for what constituents and contaminants would be permitted inside the landfill – would be finalized after the Waste Disposition Record of Decision was established in 2015.

     However, it is unclear exactly when the community input will occur. It appears DOE and the Ohio EPA have no intention to have a forum where this dialogue can occur. So, it is either that DOE misled the public on the front end, or the public is being disregarded on the back end. Regardless of which is true, there is one undeniable fact … the people of southern Ohio have never had a satisfactory forum where it could tell DOE what it will and will not accept in a radiological landfill, and that should be alarming to the Ohio delegation, the DeWine administration, state regulators and all southern Ohio citizens. To DOE’s credit, many “Open Houses” provided opportunities for the public to hear DOE’s plans, but that is a far cry from a forum where citizens are HEARD and not simply educated.

     The reluctance in having such a forum could be that DOE understands fully what such community input would include, and that is the removal of all process equipment and process piping from the large enrichment buildings, along with perhaps other prohibitions. That Input would be entirely consistent with where the community comfort level has been all along. Those exclusions would be costly to DOE, but those costs would provide a more thorough cleanup and would minimize risk to nearby neighbors who will certainly be in line to receive airborne radiological contamination from the demolition of the enrichment buildings. DOE’s risk minimization efforts (i.e., fixatives, water suppression) have proven unreliable at other DOE facilities where contamination was detected many miles from a demolition site.

     DOE and its site contractors constantly preach safety at the site, and rightfully so. Site workers are held to a high standard for safety and always directed to minimize risk, which should be celebrated. However, when it comes to the public’s risk, DOE seems to be taking a different posture.

It goes without saying that citizens who live close to the site would be safer if process equipment and process piping are removed before demolition. No one has to be a nuclear engineer to figure that out. So why is it that this obvious safety measure is being dismissed? Are members of the Ohio delegation, the DeWine administration, state regulators and anyone else suggesting that our citizens should be at greater risk for airborne radiological contamination because it might cost DOE more money to conduct the cleanup properly?

     That is impossible to believe, so the clear answer is to establish a Waste Acceptance Criteria to prohibit process equipment and process piping. That will mean those contaminants are less of a threat to our citizens during demolition and will bring the project into alignment with what was originally supported. Additionally, members of the United Steel Workers will benefit from the work that is required, and the Tri-State Building & Construction Trades Council will still work to construct the landfill and perhaps build a facility for off-site shipping needs that is being explored by local leaders. Better cleanup, reduced contamination, safer conditions, employment opportunities, future use benefits.  This isn’t that hard.

     The Pike County Commissioners and the Village of Piketon are also correct in their objection to DOE’s recent position that site infrastructure will not be accessible and that it is to be removed as part of the cleanup project. Remember, citizens didn’t agree to a radiological landfill because it was a good idea on its face. It was agreed to because it was a means to an end for reindustrialization, which of course included the future use of the site infrastructure. One can only imagine the frustration being felt by state and regional economic development professionals who marched countless companies around the site espousing the great benefits of the site’s incredible infrastructure capacity, only to learn now that it won’t be there because DOE has decided to demolish it. That’s unacceptable.

     So, to review, DOE assured southern Ohio citizens that it would have an opportunity to provide input on the Waste Acceptance Criteria. That has not happened despite plans for waste to be placed into the landfill next year. Before the Waste Disposition Record of Decision was finalized, the community justified reindustrialization as a logical reason for why on-site disposal could be supported, in part because of the site’s attractive and unmatched infrastructure. So, it’s no wonder Village of Piketon officials and the Pike County Commissioners have called this arrangement a bait and switch.

     It is important to note that DOE and the community need a healthy relationship with one another, and that is achievable and desired by everyone. However, that is hard to establish if DOE comes up short on its promises to the people of southern Ohio. Or, as we like to say around here, DOE appears to have had enough steam to blow the whistle, but not enough to pull the train. Likewise, local elected officials, the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative and development professionals must also recognize that they must be good partners with DOE and be more effective in future planning efforts to establish a definitive path forward that is collectively supported.

     This issue is a potentially volatile one for DOE and the Trump Administration as we head toward Election Day. In 2016, President Trump was wise to point out that the people of Appalachia had for too long been overlooked, which led to overwhelming support – unprecedented support – in areas like ours. He promised better days and a louder voice for the people of Appalachia. And although the president certainly doesn’t have his hands on the levers of the Portsmouth project, it cannot be disputed that in the case of his Department of Energy, southern Ohio is still waiting to be heard.

     The good news is that it isn’t too late for the Trump Administration and DOE. There is a workable solution and all that is required is a little cooperation from everyone and for DOE to honor what it has promised our people.

Local businesses need you now more than ever

     That store on the corner. Bob owns it now, but it was his grandfather who started it.

     It might be a hardware store, where your dad bought you your very own first tool. Or maybe a clothing store, where you got your first really nice dress or sports coat.

     Those stores have been the fabric and the foundation of our business community since our country began. They may only have five to ten employees, but it’s where you, a family member or a friend got their first job.

     When you needed that one item, you were in a hurry, it is where you have always gone. In and out, found exactly what you needed, and thanked Bob, who also contributed items to the high school band fund-raising auction again this year.

     Always there, some surviving a depression, others a World War, and the other hundred different challenges.

     But they are still alive, still going, although maybe never having faced anything like 2020. For many of these businesses, a tight month economically is bad enough, but to have to close for four, six, eight weeks is unheard of. Then having to spend additional revenue to adapt to potentially the greatest health threat of a century.

     Yet, they are still in there fighting. They have overcome unique challenges in the past, and will do everything to overcome these challenges now. But what they need most right now is you.

     While they have always been there for you, they need you now more than ever to be there for them. They need you to remember them when you need that one special item, or something in a hurry, that special tool, new dress, or gift for a loved one for no reason at all, except that you bought it at that special store that has always been there and had that unique, perfect gift.

     You will make the difference whether these stalwarts of the community survive, who donate to the schools, provide so many first jobs and have exactly what you need.

     There is a place for every business in a community, everyone has a role to play.

     But it would be lonely if we didn’t have Bob and his three-generation family store on the corner, and that store, more than ever, needs you to remember them.