The Marion Board of Health has for some time hoped to reduce the number of tobacco retail sales licenses in Marion for 2020; however, on January 7, the board learned that placing a cap on tobacco licenses is no longer that simple.
The board was optimistic that one tobacco retailer in Marion was going to forego reapplying for its tobacco retail license and planned to simply not issue any further ones and reduce the current number, six, to five, thinking it would be the perfect opportunity to reduce the venues in town where tobacco and nicotine could be sold.
However, Marion Health Director Karen Walega reported that the Kittansett Club has gone ahead and applied to renew its current tobacco retail license.
According to Walega, town counsel has informed her that the board could amend its tobacco bylaw to restrict tobacco retail licenses to a maximum number, but the board could not just take away any of the licenses it has already issued in order to meet that maximum.
Furthermore, as it stands now, the tobacco bylaw does not specify a maximum number of licenses, prompting Board of Health member Edward Hoffer to point out, “If a seventh came in we’d have no reason to deny it.”
Walega said the board could change the language of the bylaw to cap the number of licenses at six, and then lower it over time if possible as retailers’ licenses are surrendered or revoked.
“If we do not have a cap then we certainly should cap it at a certain number,” said Hoffer.
Amending the bylaw to place a cap on the number of licenses will require a public hearing.
“The minute it’s written let us know and we’ll schedule a public hearing,” said Board of Health Chairman John Howard.
Also during the meeting, Walega described the frustrating circumstances surrounding the attempts to deliver Lauren Fisher an official letter ordering her to vacate her Front Street property and her rights in regard to the matter. Fisher’s house and trailer had been condemned as a result of the findings of a December 11 police search.
Walega was present at Fisher’s property that day along with the police, animal control officer, representatives from the Animal Rescue League, and the building commissioner, and told the Board of Health on December 12 how she witnessed unsafe and unsanitary conditions within the house, including animal feces and an insect infestation, just before the board formally voted to condemn the home.
Walega said her first attempt to deliver the letter was on Friday, December 19. When that failed, she went to police station and left the letter with police. According to Walega, an officer was to contact Fisher and make an attempt to hand-deliver the letter.
“Well, that didn’t happen,” said Walega, who did not return to make a second attempt until January 3 after her vacation.
According to Walega, Fisher was aware of the attempt to deliver her the letter but refused to accept it. Walega said that on January 6 she wrote a cover letter to accompany the original letter and sent it to Fisher via certified mail; however, Fisher again refused to accept it.
“In the meantime, [Chief Garcia] gave documentation that he had tried to give that letter several times and it didn’t happen,” said Walega. “She did not receive the letter – and she refused to come in [to the police station] and receive the letter.”
Walega reported that Fisher did finally receive the original letter, but not without further difficulty.
“Mrs. Fisher said that she would not sign it, she didn’t want it – her attorney told her not to take it,” said Walega. She said the officer attempting to hand-deliver the letter had placed the letter on the ground in Fisher’s presence and left.
“According to the police officer, they did pick it up?” asked Board of Health member Edward Hoffer. “So we have documentation that this letter was physically placed, if not in her hand, but in her plain sight?”
“We definitely have that information, yes,” Walega said.
Walega reported that some cleaning has begun at the property, but she had no further updates to provide.
“The question that people keep asking me is, is there anything in any of the documentation about not being allowed animals [in her possession]?” asked Board of Health member Dot Brown.
“That is animal control,” said Walega. “I have nothing to do with that.”
Fisher was charged with two counts of animal cruelty, one count of interfering with an investigation, and a count of resisting arrest. She pleaded not guilty to those charges during her arraignment on December 13 at the Wareham District Court.
In other matters, Public Health Nurse Kathleen Downey reported that in 2019 there were 19 confirmed cases of influenza in Marion; 10 of those confirmed cases were in December alone.
“That may be an indication of the way things are going (for this flu season),” said Downey.
Hoffer suggested that this flu season could potentially be one of the most severe in some time.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health will be on January 21 at 3:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
Marion Board of Health
By Jean Perry