Thursday, Jan. 25, the Barry-Eaton board of health met to vote on the possible repeal of the TOST program (Time of Sale and Transfer). Prior to the vote the board heard several testimonies from the public, both for and against the program. TOST has been a topic of intense debate since its implementation 10 years ago. After hearing the public comments, and final debate between board members, the board moved to take steps to repeal the program.

The essential function of TOST was to gradually evaluate and update the onsite water wells and sewage systems at the time of sale or transfer of properties. TOST primarily targeted residential parcels. This meant that when a homeowner sought to sell a house, an evaluation of the septic and drainfield had to be made and approved by BEDHD. If the property failed the evaluation due to faulty or an out of date septic/drainfield, the homeowner would then have to replace/update the aforementioned sewage components.

The point of the TOST program was to protect groundwater, local bodies of water, and the general environment surrounding a property. The program was largely adopted because Michigan does not have statewide standards for upkeep of septic/drainfields, according to several board members. The issue with TOST, however, became the high costs for replacing systems that were often still safe and functional, but simply out of date. Such costs would often set homeowners back from selling properties, not to mention the requirement to update the systems regardless of moving forward with a sale.

The “black cloud of TOST” became the key phrase of the Jan. 25 meeting. There was significant back and forth about amending the TOST program, but the majority of board members fell on the side of the “black cloud” argument; that TOST had become so controversial over the last 10 years that the only way to move forward was to scrap TOST altogether and eventually devise a different program.

The decision still has to move to the counties’ respective commissioner boards, and is expected to receive similar votes in both. Eaton County commissioner, Brian Droscha, appeared at the Jan. 25 health board meeting. Although not a member of the board, he, like many local Republicans, campaigned on a platform of repealing TOST, which was a burden to many constituents. He was pleased with the health board’s decision, and plans to vote in favor of the repeal when it comes before the Eaton County board of commissioners.