LWV OBSERVER REPORT: Board of Health, April 11

Marblehead League of Women Voters Observer Corps
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Observer Corps Reports are provided by volunteers from the Marblehead League of Women Voters. To learn more about the League and its activities, see my.lwv.org/massachusetts/marblehead.

BOARD: Board of Health

LWVM OBSERVER: Thomas Krueger 

DATE: April 11

MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: Todd Belfbecker (chairperson), Joanne Greer Miller,  Helaine Hazlett, Health Director Andrew Petty

Town Meeting leaf blower article

Marblehead residents Jeanne Stahl and Kathy Breslin presented Article 48 to the board, asking for the board’s support. Previously, an article had been passed at Town Meeting banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The residents above noted that the Green Committee had already supported this. Over 200 towns with seven in Massachusetts have enacted restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers; California will ban them by 2024, and Mass Medical Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, and others are in support. Gas-powered leaf blowers have significant health impacts, especially two-cycle motors — 30% of the fuel is unburned, and running a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits the same pollution that a car does after 1,000 miles. The health effects extend to lung, cardiovascular and diabetic disease. Leaf blowers effects are via pollution, noise (gas-powered leaf blowers emit low-frequency noise that is much more penetrating) and particulate matter. The time period when banned is during the summer when people are outside, windows are open, and there is little need. (Note: Electric-powered leaf blowers can be used year round.)

Belfbecker stated that the board has not historically supported citizen articles. If the bill is passed, the Health Department as well as the Police Department will be charged with enforcement. The process would be as follows: A call can be made to the Health Department or Police Department; an officer or Health Department official are then authorized to levy a fine.  The fine would be for the homeowner, not the landscaper.

Note: If the article is passed, there will be NO enforcement this year. The article has to go to the town clerk, then to the Massachusetts attorney general, and this process takes around 90 days, past Labor Day.

Budget update

Petty reported that the Health Department presented to the Finance Committee one week ago, and the budget was approved. Petty reminded the Board of Health that when the budget was formulated, no change could happen to employee hours, or the Health Department would lose grant funding. This left the only source for saving to be the contribution the Health Department gives to mental health services, the Marblehead Counseling Center. When this “savings” was included, the budget was $303,879. FinCom was able to find savings in other budgets, so that the Health Department budget was now $313,091, only a $1,088 cut to the mental health contribution. (After Town Meeting, the Board of Health will look to see where the remaining ARPA funds can be allocated.) The board ratified the above budget.

In the other Health Department budget for waste removal, a change was made so that the revolving account dollars could be used for waste disposal, maintenance and the final lease payment for a John Deere loader; these terms are such that after a three-year lease the department owns the John Deere equipment. This budget item was $1,488,200. This budget was ratified by the Board of Health.

Tobacco control

A local regulation to control the psychoactive substances Kratom and Delta 8 will be going to the town counsel soon. These substances are already banned by the state, but local regulation will allow enforcement.

Mental Health Task Force update

The Mental Health Task Force met on April 10 and discussed their participation in the upcoming Healthy Kids Fair at the YMCA on April 29 from 11 am.-.1:30 p.m. There will be a table there with lots of information available.

The weekly Marblehead Current publication has offered the MHTF a monthly column that will discuss mental health issues. A subcommittee is already working on this.

The MHTF is applying to the Health Department for the following ARPA funds: $2,500 for promotional materials, advertising, and website maintenance and monthly updates; $7,500 for a young adult and adult speaker series. The total is $10,000. This was approved by the board.

Dan Bauer, principal for MHS, a valued member, will be leaving the task force as he takes on a new job. Michele Carlson, the new principal for MHS, was suggested as his replacement. Her appointment was approved by the board.

Transfer Station update

The Health Department director, the architect and civil engineer will soon go before the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to see if the further transfer station renovations will be seen as a new project or a revised one, given that the landfill had been closed. If it is deemed a “new” project, there will be a four-month delay as the project is certified; if a “revised” one, then the next steps in the renovation can proceed more rapidly.

Transfer Station fee schedule

Petty attended a Massachusetts recycling committee recently and met several vendors who recycle freon (the refrigerant). Currently, the Transfer Station does not take any appliance that has freon. The vendor would come to the Transfer Station, remove the freon, and the Transfer Station could begin taking air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, etc. The cost would be $25 per unit. (The vendor would come only after 25 units had been brought.) The process would be similar to televisions — pay for the sticker, attach to the unit, etc. (Note: If it is a refrigerator, the doors have to be removed.)  Petty is looking into vendors to recycle propane tanks (20 lb. and 1 lb.).

Director’s report

The North Shore Public Health coalition (Swampscott, Lynn, Marblehead, Danvers, Beverly, and Salem) are working on a body art regulation, including micro blading, tattooing, etc.

Sun safety: All town employees who work outside will be provided with sunscreen, lifeguards’ umbrellas, etc.

Narcan for overdoses: There are 24 kits at the office, each has two narcan units, fentanyl test strips (concern is about “press pills,” which often have unknown compounds), nitro gloves and a face barrier for CPR.  No questions about the kits will be asked.

Massachusetts new behavioral health hotline: Card with info is at the office: 833-773-2445, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

New program for North Shore mothers: New mothers can have a home visit by a local nurse to answer questions. This is a one-time visit, and a new mother has to call for the service.

Diaper drive: The acceptance of new unopened diapers at the Health Department ends on April 28.

COVID test kits: Still available outside the Health Department office (these have an expiration date of September); after May 11, the kits won’t be provided, and people will have to use health insurance to obtain them from a clinic or doctor’s office.

The meeting was adjourned and the next scheduled for May 9.

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