New Transfer Station override heading to Town Meeting

The Board of Health voted unanimously at its Oct. 10 meeting to ask Town Meeting in May for an override to fund a feasibility study on building a construction and demolition drop-off area at the Transfer Station. Public Health Director Andrew Petty estimates the cost of the study at about $50,000.

Meanwhile, the town is still waiting for final approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection of its $1.6 million update to the Transfer Station, which has delayed plans to start construction this fall.

“We would like to complete this project this winter,” Petty said.

Winter is the Transfer Station’s least busy time of year.

State Rep. Jennifer Armini, far right, updates the Board of Health on public-health-related initiatives at the State House.

State Rep. Jennifer Armini of Marblehead spoke at the meeting, updating members on different initiatives in the Legislature, including several bills that would double the bottle deposit from its current five cents to 10 cents and add more types of beverage containers to the recycling program. She also talked about several statewide bills and programs to support residents’ mental health.

The board voted unanimously to ask Town Meeting to approve expanding the Board of Health from three to five members.

“This will increase community engagement, which is lacking,” said BOH member Tom McMahon. “I don’t think we do enough of that. Some of the decisions here have major effects on people in town.”

McMahon said he would still like to pursue a stickerless system at the Transfer Station with a license-plate reader. Anyone caught using the dump without paying would not be able to renew their driver’s license. McMahon said he had spoken to an “ex-police chief in town” who could help with the system, but declined to identify him.

For the next year, the Transfer Station will continue to use the sticker system and has hired a new employee to check vehicles as they come in.

McMahon declined to sign the routine payments to vendors, saying he wants the names and amounts read aloud at Board of Health meetings to increase transparency.

“I can’t take Andrew’s word exactly,” he said, referring to Petty. “I would wager that I’m the only one who doesn’t rubber stamp these.”

Petty replied, “When we build the budget, we discuss all of these items.”

Chair Helaine Hazlett added, “We voted the budget. I have a certain amount of trust in my director.”

“I am 100% committed to transparency,” replied member Joanne Miller, looking at McMahon.

At public comment, resident Lanie Goodman praised the town’s decision to make fentanyl strips and Narcan available for free. 

“Personally, I’d like to see it more available,” she said. “I think Narcan should be in the schools. And the fentanyl strips.”

Petty pointed out that Narcan is available for staff to administer at schools but is not available to students.

Goodman also addressed the obvious tension between McMahon and his colleagues.

“What I’ve seen tonight… I can see two against one, or one against two,” she said. “As a longtime citizen of Marblehead, this does not look good. It is not a good look.”

The Board of Health meets next in November, when Marblehead High School counselor Gina Hart has been invited to come and speak about results of a recent student survey about depression and drug and nicotine use.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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