In her Health Director’s update during the September 7 Rochester Board of Health meeting, Karen Walega told the membership that the Town of Rochester would participate in a Capacity Assessment funded by a state Public Health Excellence Grant.
The end game for this survey and assessment being orchestrated by the state Department of Public Health is a voluntary regionalization of inspection services.
“It’s going to take a long time. I was hoping to have someone to help with inspections,” said Walega. “The towns that want to sign on, the state wants to get everyone evenly disbursed … not every town is the same. We should all be the same.”
The Tri-Towns and Acushnet have all signed on for what would be a state-sponsored program for administration and inspection assistance. Once implemented, the program would put tablets into the hands of Board of Health members and board administrator Lori Walsh so they can access up-to-date information.
The move makes sense for towns like Marion and Rochester. Walega is preparing Rochester for her retirement, while Marion is without a full-time health agent.
The DPH increased the funding and went before the state legislature. Several retired health agents will review a bidding process and make recommendations. Westport is the grant administrator. Dartmouth opted out.
“This is the new wave … all the old health agents are burnt out,” said Walega.
Rochester is on the verge of implementing an online permitting and routing system. Board of Health Chairman David Sousa welcomed the idea, noting how his own business was affected by an inaccurate order number in a job he had done for the Town of Acushnet.
Walsh’s increasing responsibility led to discussion, a recommendation from Walega and a vote that will result in an increase in her pay. The matter was to next go to town Finance Director Suzanne Szyndlar and the Finance Committee.
Like most of Massachusetts, Rochester has been in “critical drought” mode, and the state Drought Declaration acknowledging the risk of wetland wildland fires increasing has caused discussion about wells in town and recommendations. Rockland recently had a fire that went on for three weeks.
Walega recommended minimizing water use including residences relying on private wells. “We’re all drawing from the same aquifer,” she said. The up-to-date situation is posted on the town website, townofrochester.com.
Last week, the Town of Marion announced that a mosquito carrying the EEE virus was found at the end of August. By September 7, three EEE cases had been reported in Suffolk County.
The board received a visit from Megan daCosta, the Tobacco Control coordinator for New Bedford. daCosta started in her position this summer, having worked prior to in Fall River. The UMass Dartmouth graduate is currently in her master’s degree program in Public Health at UMass Amherst.
The town told daCosta it would furnish her with Rochester’s public-health regulations, which are 10 years old; daCosta said almost every town’s regulations are out of date. She will bring the latest information in order to update the town’s regulations to the state level and “anything we can do to make Rochester better.” daCosta serves six area towns and the City of New Bedford.
Walega provided updates on several properties of concern.
Upon hearing about 122 Pine Street, Sousa said the property “doesn’t look as bad (as it had) … it’s a mess, but it’s a lot better than it was.” Walega said things at the address are moving in the right direction.
Mrs. Butts’ property at 515 Rounseville Road has seen changes, as a young lady living in a trailer at the address was reportedly moving out, and the Fire Department had been to the site to address a safety issue. The Building Commissioner was reportedly working with a family member regarding worsening conditions in the yard. Walega said that Town Counsel Blair Bailey was on the case.
An odor complaint at Lloyd’s market yielded news that the dumpster has been changed and the proprietor is working to rectify the problem. “The guy’s trying, what are you going to do when you’re having a summer like this?” said Sousa, noting that the owner had bought the same chemical used by SEMASS and applies it twice a week. “That helped. I think he’s trying,” said Sousa.
The septic system at Seasons Corner market has failed, and the owner was last known to be waiting on a contractor to replace the system.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Health is scheduled for Wednesday, October 5, at 4:00 pm at Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Health
By Mick Colageo