Rogue Dump Users, Beach Water Quality, Mental Health, Transfer Station Fixes & More
On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, the Board of Health (BOH) convened with its new post-election configuration: Helaine Hazlett, Joanne Miller, and new-to-the-board Tom McMahon.
New Leadership & Stickergate
First on the BOH agenda was the restructuring of the Board’s leadership. McMahon – with a nod to past “tension” and “trust issues” and his hopes for future collegiality – made a motion to nominate Miller as the BOH Chair. The motion to nominate Miller did not receive a second.
Immediately thereafter, Miller motioned to nominate Hazlett, which Hazlett seconded. During the discussion that followed, Miller pointed out that she has “learned so much from Helaine,” who “has so much experience…and expertise that I value.” McMahon, explaining his concern about Hazlett serving as chair, referenced his claim that Hazlett does not have the Marblehead facility sticker on her vehicle, yet utilizes the transfer station’s services. “I think a great step,” said McMahon, “would be to put the sticker on the car tonight.” Hazlett did not address McMahon's contention during the meeting.
McMahon later told Marblehead Beacon that the sticker is “a much bigger deal that some may think.” Revenue from stickers has declined substantially, he said, which requires the town’s general fund to make up for the lack of revenue – a number his own calculations suggest is “in the six figures.” The reason, he believes, for the meaningful decline in sticker sales while the transfer station is still bustling is that people are allowed in – including from out of town – without stickers. “I don’t blame the transfer station employees for this,” he said. If leadership won’t play by the rules, why should they enforce the rules for others, he wonders.
In order to use the recycling, trash, and other services of the town transfer station, an $80.00 facility sticker is required. This sticker, which is good for one year, also allows for parking at Devereux Beach.
McMahon also told Marblehead Beacon that “Hazlett has claimed to have a sticker in her glove box,” but he noted that it is the written policy of the Town of Marblehead not to allow people in who have un-affixed stickers. In fact, the town’s policy, which has Hazlett’s name on the letterhead, reads, in all capital letters, “sticker must be affixed to the left, front driver’s side bumper” and that “unattached stickers will not be honored."
Marblehead Beacon reached out to Hazlett for comment but had not received a reply as of the time of publication.
Ultimately the vote for Hazlett to be BOH Chair prevailed, with Hazlett and Miller voting in favor and McMahon against. Hazlett then nominated Miller to serve as Co-Chair, which resulted in a unanimous “yes” vote.
Mental Health Task Force’s New Subcommittee
Also on the agenda was Miller’s update regarding the Mental Health Task Force, which is under the purview of the BOH. She shared that while summer can be a period during which people take a little bit of time off, she and others had decided to build a subcommittee to create a strategic plan in order to “try to meet the urgent needs surrounding mental health.” Miller said, “Our goal is to really set important goals going forward to this year and looking out three years as well.” Kirsten Bosworth, a leadership and organizational development consultant, has volunteered to help facilitate the subcommittee’s meetings, Miller added.
Beach & Air Quality
BOH Director Andrew Petty updated the group on a variety of local health-related issues, including beach bacteria and air quality, as both have been in the news.
Petty shared that the five designated public swimming beaches in town (Gas House, Grace Oliver, Devereux, Crocker Park, and Stramski) are tested for bacteria weekly. The other town beaches that are not considered public swimming beaches are tested bi-weekly. “Fifty out of 1100 beaches were closed across the state,” Petty said, referring to the relatively small number of recent beach closures due to excess bacteria. He noted that Marblehead beaches’ bacteria counts have not risen to levels requiring closure this summer. Process-wise, he explained, four of the five town beaches are required to close if they receive two failing readings in a row. Grace Oliver must close after one such failure.
Petty was asked if he posts the weekly and bi-weekly readings anywhere on the town’s site and he acknowledged that he does not but stated that he would ensure there is a link provided that will connect with the state’s website offering regular testing results. These results may be seen here, searchable by beach name or by municipality.
Petty referenced air-quality testing as well, noting that the measurement of particulates or other pollution in the air is measured routinely by authorities and noted that Marblehead's air quality results may be accessed here.
Ramshackle Transfer Station Trailer
McMahon asked Petty whether there was a plan in place to seek the Planning Board’s approval to replace the transfer station’s aged employee trailer at the same time that the compactor will be installed, which is scheduled for this fall. Petty said there was not, noting that there are plumbing, electrical, and cable considerations to include. McMahon motioned to add the trailer to the same timeline as the compactor, noting what he believes to be an urgent need to replace the dilapidated trailer “to show a sign of good faith” to the employees. He further noted that it will be of extremely limited cost to do so, and had not been a priority of the past BOH, to which Hazlett responded that the matter had been raised at Town Meeting. McMahon stated that it was time for the BOH to take action. Though Hazlett expressed reluctance, citing the purportedly temporary nature of the trailer, she ultimately agreed that she, too, wished to have the trailer replaced. Her caveat was that she wanted McMahon’s motion to have the word “goal” in it in the event that the work cannot be done concurrently with the compactor work already slated for the fall. The word was added and the motion passed.
During public comment, town resident Terri Tauro, who is also the Marblehead Municipal Employees Union president, thanked the BOH for prioritizing the matter of the trailer, noting that the structure likely cannot survive another winter. The “temporary” trailer has, according to Tauro, been the workplace for transfer station employees for the past seven years. Tauro has been an ongoing advocate on behalf of what she says are remarkably poor working conditions in the trailer.
Health Inspector Retiring
Petty advised the three members that the town’s one Health Inspector – Bobbie Cody – is planning to retire in September or early October, and he plans to post the job opening sometime toward the beginning of September in the hope that the incoming hire will overlap by a week under Cody.
The next BOH meeting will be on August 7th at 7:30 p.m., and the Mental Health Task Force subcommittee meeting will be July 24th. It is not known what time the latter meeting will be held. Miller said that the subcommittee is open to new members.