Coming before the Mattapoisett Board of Health on August 21 was Attorney James Marsh representing local farmer, Michael King.
Before the meeting began Chairman Carmelo Nicolosi explained to Marsh and King that a letter submitted by Marsh dated August 20 had to be submitted to town counsel before the BOH could discuss the matter.
Further, Nicolosi said that Town Administrator Michael Gagne had advised him that if King arrived to the meeting with legal representation then the meeting should be continued until the town’s counsel had weighed in on the matter. Nicolosi said, “We are not in a position to comment until town counsel sees the letter.”
The matter being discussed became clear when King played a July 18 voicemail he received from BOH inspector Robert Ethier. In it Ethier tells King that BOH agent Dale Barrows asked him to “check in with you” regarding alleged catering activities. Ethier tells King that the BOH has questions regarding whether or not he has the proper permits. Ethier also advises King that the state had been contacted.
King told the BOH members that on July 14 he roasted a pig at a residence in Assonet for a private party. He asserted that the sale of a live animal to a private party was outside regulations and that the pig had been transported to a certified slaughterhouse in Rhode Island and then roasted at the Assonet home.
“It was a private function on private property,” King said. He added that he did not cater the event, did not provide anything other than the pig that he roasted for his customer on the customer’s property. Of the inspector, King said, “In his haste to investigate the activity, he notified the DPH and USDA.”
Marsh’s letter in response to the allegations brought by Ethier states that his actions, “resulted in the filing of a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the USDA. We understand the acts taken were unauthorized, unilateral and without any basis or proof of the “Farm” violating any requirements or regulations. In fact, we understand the acts arose as a result of the Agent observing a photograph of a roasted pig posted on Facebook.”
King said that the sale of the live pig and subsequent butchering at a certified facility were exempt from inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
Marsh’s letter refers to the actions by Ethier as “harassment.”
Nicolosi asked King what his objective was in meeting with the BOH on this day. King responded, “To clear the air – that I’m conducting legal activities.” He said he was not catering food and his only products were the animals. Nicolosi said everything would be passed along to town counsel, “That’s as far as we get today.” He added that the BOH had not received any notifications from the USDA.
In other matters, Barrows told the board members that the town had received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $20,000. He said the funds would be used to educate the community on proper recycling techniques. Barrows said that his office would be planning a program that would engage senior citizens in teams of two to inspect recycling bins to make sure residents were placing the right type of recyclables in them.
Board of Health Assistant Kate Tapper said that the bin inspectors would place tags on those that contained materials unsuitable for recycling. She said that records would be kept over an eight-week period to ascertain if the residents being notified of problems with their bins were improving. Tapper told the board members that the biggest problems were dirty recyclable materials, recyclables being placed in a plastic trash bag and then into the bin, and using the recycling bin for regular trash.
Barrows said the objective was to get the residents to do all they could in an effort to reduce the costs associated with waste management, “Currently we pay between $35 to $65 per ton depending on how dirty things are.” He said that non-recyclable trash costs $60 per ton.
The board members also discussed increasing education at the grade school level, engaging ABC to assist in that effort, and to send the schools materials about proper recycling practices to be carried home by the children.
Barrows advised the board members that costs associated with the disposal of televisions and mattresses had increased. Presently he said the transfer station is charging $30 for televisions and $20 for most mattresses. He said that ABC was charging the town $35 for such items. The board concurred that increased costs had to be passed along to the public.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Health may be cancelled for the month of September Barrows said. More information will be available at www.mattapoisett.net.
Mattapoisett Board of Health
By Marilou Newell