LWV OBSERVER CORPS: Board of Health, Aug. 7

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

DATE: Aug. 7 (hybrid meeting, recorded)

OBSERVER: Tom Krueger

MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: Tom McMahon, Joanne Miller and Helaine Hazlett, along with Health Director Andrew Petty

Preliminary remarks 

Prior to proceeding to the agenda, Chair Helaine Hazlett made some remarks regarding issues that had arisen: Board of Health business should be conducted at the meetings; her use of the Transfer Station was only on Board of Health business; comments about board members by other board members was not called for; all motions should proceed through the chair. Tom McMahon took issue with Hazlett, citing an email that he had seen.

Joanne Miller wished to find out how long Hazlett had been on the Board of Health and her other contributions to the town. Hazlett noted her first involvement in the town was at the PTO when her children were in school. From there, her involvement in the town has spanned 40 years and has included serving on the School Committee, founding the Task Force Against Discrimination, Friends of the Public Schools, Dollars for Scholars, etc. She has served on the Board of Health for over 25 or 30 years. Miller lauded Hazlett for her valuable contributions and wished the board could continue forward positively and with respect.


Approval July 1 minutes was deferred until the next meeting, as McMahon had not had an opportunity to see and review them.

Mental Health Task Force

Miller reported that the last meeting was of a subcommittee of the task force in July when a robust group attended. The subcommittee was beginning the discussion of realigning the priorities and goals for the task force for next year and hopefully the next three years. Priorities that had arisen during COVID have now changed. (Chris Bosworth facilitated this conversation.)

Miller noted that over the past six months they had lacked a goal, but now was the time to move forward, keeping members involved and having the “right” people. There was discussion about having “backup” people for members so that a quorum would be attained. (Note: The subcommittee was less than half the membership of the MHTF, so was not a public meeting.) The schools are represented by the new Marblehead High School principal and a social worker from MHS. The next meeting will be at the end of August before school starts.

Credit cards at Transfer Station?

Petty presented the idea to the board for the transfer station to begin taking credit cards for payment. He noted that there are over 400 commercial accounts that are billed monthly, and the on-line option would be of great convenience. Also, the process of recording at the Transfer Station, inputting the receipts and billing are very labor intensive for the Health Department.

One such system that is being evaluated is the Square credit card reader, which is already used by many businesses. (Payment by check or cash would also continue.) The investment in the reader and cash register would cost $750 and $350, respectively.

The transaction fees that would be added to the user’s bill would be 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction for account holders and 2.6 percent plus 30 cents for residents. (The cost of the user fee is passed on to the user.)

The system would be installed at the Transfer Station office and could also be installed at the booth for residential traffic. No additional employees would be needed.

The board moved for Petty to proceed with a further evaluation of the credit card transactions.

Facility stickers

Facility stickers are also a part of a larger discussion about who the users of the Transfer Station are and who would we want them to be. This will be an agenda item for September.

Further discussion ensued about the absence of stickers, display of stickers, etc. 

McMahon presented an automated system for possible use, Eagle Eye Network, which is a camera that would “read” the license plate and compare these to the registered users. Delinquent users could be flagged, notified and fined (a law would need to be passed for this option). The system would work much like Easy Pass for toll roads, etc.

Currently, there is not a network at the Transfer Station, so implementation could not proceed now. The town of Marblehead is to get a network soon.

The discussion then moved into the revenue from stickers for FY23 as compared to FY22, the former being less than the latter. Why? Yard piles are larger this year. From here, the discussion proceeded to the cost of removal of yard waste, processing onsite or offsite (less expensive if processed onsite), how to minimize costs by maximizing loads, etc.

From here, the discussion meandered to the cost of recycling (which goes up every year, especially as there is no revenue from paper or cardboard recycling). Petty then reminded residents that recycling can only be according to Massachusett state guidelines. A flier about recycling items is sent to all residents each year, and it is important for residents to read this.

At this point, McMahon led the discussion into talking about finding revenue for the Transfer Station where it can. And this continued into the Transfer Station accepting C&D (construction and demolition) material (the Department of Environmental Protection allows 20 percent of material in trailers to be C&D), costs, size of trucks allowed (e.g., could larger trucks have a “white line” indicating the 5 cubic yards that are permissible by DEP), an enclosure on the Transfer Station site to use as a sorting floor, etc.

In response, Petty noted that there would be an increased employee cost and a different permitting by Massachusetts DEP. (Currently, DEP has allowed two trailer loads of C&D per week for the MDH Transfer Station. Perhaps they could decide that it is just too much for a residential site. The difficulty that arises when using C&D trailers is that other trailers have to be switched out, a time-consuming step, and it would only be on Tuesday and Thursday, leaving contractors to find other options on other days.)

Petty reminded all that there are other priorities that would come first, i.e., the renovation of the transfer station. Only after that was completed could they look and determine the economics. Next step is to present to the Marblehead Planning Board the Transfer Station plans (building — scale house, compactor, swap shed, kiosk, etc; traffic flow), then finalizing plans with the architects, etc., to begin the bidding process. And he reiterated that it is the residents whom we want to serve.

Petty went on to remind people that the employees deserve respect. They often work six days a week. Miller emphasized what a tremendous resource the Transfer Station is and can’t understand the people’s attitudes. McMahon opined that he thought the cost of the sticker was a major factor. Hazlett said there is an abatement for qualified households.

Finally, McMahon moved that Petty look further into license plate readers. This passed 3-0. A further motion about the “white lines” on large trucks, etc., was tabled as other board members needed to learn more about the entire process.


Petty asked the board members to look at, research and review changes to the Health Department website on the town’s website for the next meeting. McMahon presented his “stab” at it. 

Director’s report

  • Beaches: Grace Oliver failed testing last week, and only one failure closes that beach. It was closed on Wednesday; a repeat test on Thursday passed; the beach was reopened on Friday. Notification is in multiple places: town website, emails and a sign hanging at the beach indicating its closure.
  • MIAA (Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association): Petty handed out an information sheet that discussed boards, codes of conduct, guidelines for risk management, etc. (He also handed out a sheet for Robert’s Rule of Order.)
  • Flu clinics: There will be two clinics, one for seniors over 65, hi-dose, on Sept. 26, 9-11 a.m.; a second one for town employees on Oct. 11.
  • Other: COVID is always around. The Health Department still has test kits that will expire by Sept. 28. The same guidelines pertain: test if sick; if positive, quarantine for five days and wear a mask for five more days, etc; follow CDC guidelines.

Public comment

  • One resident had a question about recycling textiles. Petty answered that there were bins at the Transfer Station, and items, wearable or not, should be cleaned, placed in a plastic bag and put into a bin. If it can’t be worn, it will be recycled to rags. If an item is totally soiled, it can be placed in the trash.
  • Another resident had a number of questions and comments: happy about the replacement of a staff trailer, reiterated how poorly people treat the employees, compared to other towns how lucky we are to have a Transfer Station, wanted to have residents given priority for C&D, how poor the website is for the Health Department compared to other towns, etc.
  • One resident wanted a copy of the email referred to in the first paragraph.

Next meeting

The meeting was adjourned with the next meeting on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

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