Health Board, Equestrian Center Come to Agreement

LISBON, Ohio — An agreement has been reached between the Columbiana County Health District and the owners/operators of a Negley equestrian center, which could enable the facility to again host public events that have been halted since May 6 when a temporary restraining order was imposed by Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam.

The county health board met in special session at 7 a.m. Tuesday and voted unanimously to accept the agreement between the health district, David Treharne/Treharne Training Center and Richard Simmons/Kaleidoscope Project Inc., which health Commissioner Wesley Vins advised had been drafted with the input of attorneys from all three parties.

In presenting the agreement for the board’s consideration, Vins called it “very appropriate and fairly simple,” saying it is compliant with the latest orders from and guidance by the Ohio Department of Health.

Treharne Training Center, 49053 Fredericktown-Clarkson Road, provides horse boarding and riding lessons as well as public events such as barrel racing and team penning events that brings spectators to the facility.

It was the spectator events that precipitated the restraining order after health department officials reported receiving numerous complaints about the events, starting in mid-April, with concerns voiced about the number of people gathering.

Environmental director Lori Barnes said some complaints alleged as many as 200 people gathered at the center from not only Ohio but West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which Treharne has denied, saying there are more people gathered in local store parking lots at one time than in his arena.

Barnes reported earlier that notifications were sent to Treharne, who disregarded them. Treharne said previously he could not afford to not operate and keep his employees working and caring for the horses boarded there.

The boarding aspect is considered an “essential” business under the governor’s Stay Safe order, Barnes has said, because of the need for employees to feed the horses. But the public events are not part of that designation, likening them more to sporting events, which had also been disallowed under the state order until recently.

Since the restraining order was imposed, some restrictions have been lifted by the governor. The agreement approved by the board and subsequently by the other parties states that Treharne will abide by the Responsible RestartOhio safe operation protocols developed by the Ohio Department of Health for noncontact sports.

These protocols include enforcing social distancing of six feet between participant and spectators, as well as limiting occupancy and participants in the indoor arena to the extent needed to meet that social distancing requirement until the requirement is modified or terminated by the state.

Noting that the temporary restraining order expired at midnight May 25, the agreement states Treharne may resume operations and events as of May 26, following the protocols.

The agreement also notes that Kaleidoscope, as property owner, is selling the property to Treharne on a land installment basis and has no involvement in the daily operations at the facility, so is not responsible for ensuring his compliance with the order.

While the agreement was accepted by all three parties Tuesday, it still must pass muster with Judge Washam, who has scheduled a telephone conference regarding the issue at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Vins said after the meeting the modified orders recently established by Governor Mike DeWine allowed the health district more latitude in working with Treharne.

Asked how the agreement will be enforced, if approved by the judge, Vins said it could work through a complaint-driven process, much like the previous complaints that brought the issue to light in the first place. Or either health department staff members or law enforcement officers could observe events at the facility to ensure orders are being upheld.

“I feel very confident (Treharne) will do what he says he’ll do. He wants to get his business open. We want him to get his business open. This way, he can do that,” Vins said.

The fact that the health district has only had to take this legal step with one business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic pleases Vins, who said, “Overall, our approach to business has been successful. I feel the response has been successful.”

He pointed out the county just went through a holiday weekend and the health department – which was staffed throughout – received just two calls with questions, not complaints, about businesses operating.

“That speaks volumes for our businesses and our residents trying to stay healthy and safe,” Vins said, adding, “We have a good community where no one wants businesses to fail and no one wants anyone to get sick.”

At the training center Tuesday morning, where Treharne was not present, a few riders were preparing for lessons, with the riders and instructors appearing to keep safe distances between each other in the large indoor arena, with plenty of room between horses.

Later in the day, Treharne said the health department has not said much about not holding riding lessons, so they had continued.

He added that, while there are a couple of public events planned for June, most of his “busy season” for such events is over until fall, so it shouldn’t be difficult to abide by the agreement.

“We don’t have many people in the arena at any one time anyway. We don’t let them stand out on the porch or in the kitchen. There’s plenty of room,” he said.

When Treharne first learned of the restraining order earlier this month, he worried about the financial impact it would have on his business, and it has been the uphill battle he expected.

“We’re way behind. I sold off a lot of stuff we’re not using right now. We’ve sold, sold, sold a lot of stuff. We’re trying to plan ahead. We squeezed by and made it. They started a GoFundMe and brought in $10,000 or $11,000, but I’m $25,000 to $30,000 behind. It will be an absolute struggle to make it,” Treharne said.

He was able to keep all his employees working without lay offs, but said, “I haven’t talked to Ohio Edison yet. Most people we deal with are pretty understanding, but they’re gonna need paid too. The ones who can work with us are working with us. The rest, I’ll do the best I can.”

The handful of small clinics and other events scheduled for the summer “all will help but won’t catch us up,” Treharne said.

“Hopefully, nothing bad happens in the fall. We’re already thinking of that,” he said, referring to a possible increase of COVID-19 occurrences and another shut down. “We have to be ready and hope to be caught up by then.”

While “not overly happy” about some of what’s in the agreement, Treharne said he believes it contains language “we can all live with,” and said, “You just gotta do what you gotta do. I hope it will work out for now.”

Pictured: The Treharne Training Center could soon be permitted to host public equine events after an agreement was reached in regard to a restraining order against the Negley facility.

Related coverage:

May 6, 2020 | Judge Issues TRO Against Negley Business for Defying Stay-at-Home Order

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