LWV OBSERVER CORPS: Board of Health, Sept. 19

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: Sept. 19 (hybrid, recorded)


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

Transfer Station refund requests

Three refund requests for $10, $75 and $55 were all approved.

Sustainable Marblehead visit

Elaine Leahy, the executive director of Sustainable Marblehead, came to the Board of Health to thank Petty and the board members, give a brief overview of Sustainable Marblehead, and to suggest four ways her organization could partner with the Health Department.

Briefly, Sustainable Marblehead is a community organization that works to decrease waste, pollution, CO2 emissions by 2040, etc. There are a number of subgroups of Sustainable Marblehead working on issues such as conservation, harbors, clean energy, policy, etc. 

Leahy enumerated the four ways Sustainable Marblehead could partner with the Health Department:

1. Composting in the community: the more the better, which would remove food waste from the waste stream, be less costly for the town, extend the life of landfills, decrease greenhouse gasses and create compost. Sustainable Marblehead will in the next year supply an additional 53 bins to the town.

2. Composting at the schools: Composting already occurs at Marblehead High School and the Veterans Middle School, and the hope is this can be extended to two other schools.

3. Recycling education: There is a 30% “contamination” in the recycling from Marblehead residents, and this could be improved.

4. Mental health: Encouraging residents to be outside more and use bikes vs. cars more. This improves mental health as well as decreases the carbon footprint.

In the ensuing discussion, Petty said that Sustainable Marblehead has a great partnership with the department.

Regarding composting, Black Earth offers curbside composting each week for $100/year. This saves the town money and is good for the environment.

Petty plans to use funds for composting bins, of which there are two sizes, a 13-gallon ($29.50) for outside and a 1-gallon ($10) for inside. To sign up for the program, contact Black Earth online. In addition, there are eight bins up at the Transfer Station that any resident can use. This does cost the town money, so by signing up for curbside pickup saves the town money. 

In further discussion, Petty talked about the school composting program. The initial composting at the high school began as a senior project and was subsequently expanded to the Vets. He said he would like to see it in all the schools; what is needed is a teacher to champion at each school. The result of such programs would be to make composting second nature.

With respect to recycling education, Petty referred again to the website recyclesmartma.org, which is a source to go to figure out what can be recycled. He hoped to partner with Sustainable Marblehead to audit our contamination percentage. 

Finally, there was discussion about “walk-to-school,” clean-up days the next Saturday, Sept. 23 starting at 10 a.m. at Devereux Beach. Sustainable Marblehead plans to have fun and games for kids there from 11 a.m. on.

Mental Health Task Force update

The Mental Health Task Force met most recently on Sept. 11 and is working on a strategic plan. One priority is membership: making sure they have the “right” members on the board to meet their priorities. They plan to have formal “proxy” members who will be non-voting ones. The MHTF is creating subcommittees, which hopefully will lead to an exciting year.

A major priority is community engagement. This will involve a community survey to see what the needs are and what the priorities should be. On Sept. 2, UMass-Boston, which has been doing health-risk assessments, will be doing these surveys.

A second priority is branding and marketing via social media, the website, brochures, magnets, displays, etc.

Legislation and politics are a third priority so that legislators can be informed and be asked for funding.  

Miller, who chairs the MHTF, made note of a recent article in the Marblehead Current by Dr. Tom Massaro who wrote that mental health needs are actually a public health issue. At the present time, there are not enough Marblehead clinicians to address the needs. 

Town ‘bike rodeo’ safety program

Currently, many bike riders cycle without helmets, will text while riding, etc. The Health Department will be partnering with the police department, schools, Park and Rec, etc., to have a bike rodeo safety program soon.

Facility stickers

Currently, Marblehead facility stickers are $80 for the first resident car, $25 for the second, and are displayed on the driver’s side front bumper. The major problem with the system is the scofflaws who use the transfer station but don’t buy a sticker.

The current system requires an employee to monitor the stickers, which slows traffic and when not displayed subjects the employee to sometimes aggressive pushback.

To alleviate this problem, a few solutions were discussed. First, instead of a sticker, one could have a card with more information on it that an attendant could see. A second idea is that of a stickerless system using cameras to read the license plates. This system would “read” the plate information, check with a computer list, and if not on the list would message an employee who would then talk to the offender. When last priced years ago, the system would cost $60,000. One firm, Eagle Eye, was suggested, but they only have experience with small parking lots.

The major obstacle to these systems is that the Transfer Station does NOT have enough employees. The Transfer Station operates six days a week, necessitating workers who work Monday through Friday and others who work Tuesday through Saturday as well as covering vacation days, etc. If considered, the $60,000 would have to come from the Health Department budget.

After the discussion, McMahon was in favor of the stickerless system. Petty was going to analyze costs. But for the next year, stickers have been ordered with the suggestion that “Marblehead” be omitted from the sticker, and it would just have “Facility Sticker” and the license plate number on it.

Miller opined that the problem is not the stickers but the residents who have at times verbally assaulted Transfer Station employees. She wants the employees to feel safe at their job. 

Commercial recycling stickers

Currently, the Transfer Station allows commercial recycling for Marblehead business owners who reside in Marblehead or have a business in Marblehead. The cost of commercial recycling is $280 a ton, as much of the recycled material that the town was paid for (e.g., cardboard) is no longer. Instead, the town pays to have this recycled.  The discussion continued about what size load (in smaller vs. larger trucks with a 5-yard construction and demolition limit) by whom (commercial vs. residential) of recycled material could be brought. Petty noted that DEP’s goal is to have more and more recycled. 

Transfer Station Facility update

The Marblehead Planning Board has approved the Transfer Station Facility plans, and DEP approval is pending. The next step is for Winter Street Architects to finalize documents, addressing additional services, civil engineering, structural engineering, design team, etc. The cost is $231,480. The board moved and passed for this expense to be paid.

Petty said that the facility will be solar ready and hopes it could soon go out for bid.  He hoped the foundations could be laid before the winter. He noted that there will be lots of interruptions during the construction, but the facility will be open.

Director’s report

  1. Fentanyl test strips and Narcan: These are available at the Health Department and, if needed, one can talk with the public health nurse about use. These are available without any face-to-face encounter. Petty said that they want the availability to be as easy as possible. There was a discussion about having a mailbox near Mary Alley stocked with these supplies. Vandalism is always possible but would be monitored. McMahon noted that drug use is very common in Marblehead and hopes the word of the availability gets spread. 
  2. Website: Further discussion was how the Health Department website could be improved to make it more accessible. An employee in the Finance Department was identified as someone who could help with this.
  3. Fall leaf collection: Curbside leaf collection (only in leaf bags) will occur the following weeks on the day of trash pick-up: Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Nov. 27, Dec. 11, April 22, May 13 and June 3. These will be listed on the Health Department website.
  4. Household Hazardous Waste: This will occur on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the transfer station. This information is posted on the Health Department website. (The curbside pickup ended when the firm who did this was bought by another company). The program is expensive and busy: 0-3 gallons or pounds, $30; 3-10 gallons or pounds, $40; and 10-25 gallons or pounds, $60.  The next date will be in April.
  5. Flu shots: The Health Department will administer flu shots at the Council on Aging for those over 65 on Sept. 26, 9 to 11 a.m. One must pre-register.  Employee shots will be on Oct. 11 from 3 to 6 p.m.

Public comment

  1. A reporter asked questions as to whether the Narcan and fentanyl test strips were free: yes; overdose statistics, not available now; COVID cases in Marblehead, only measure now is wastewater amount, which on a regional but not town basis has been going up.
  2. A resident (Jerry Smith) asked about who would monitor the $238,000 for the next step in the facility construction. 

The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

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