Johnson Offers Experience to Board of Health

            Albin R. Johnson III was endorsed for the vacancy on the Marion Board of Health by his competition, Tina McMichael, during Tuesday’s joint session of the Select Board and the Board of Health at the Police Station.

            The two were separately interviewed by the three Select Board members and Board of Health Chairman Dr. John Howard. Dr. Ed Hoffer, the other member of the Board of Health, was unable to attend.

            Town Administrator Jay McGrail said there would be no decision on Tuesday, but the two boards would meet in another 5:00 pm joint session on Tuesday, October 4, where both boards would vote to fill the vacancy. The appointee will serve out an abbreviated term scheduled to expire with the 2023 town election.

            Johnson, who was interviewed first, demonstrated a wealth of information in all aspects of the Board of Health, due to 23 years of experience in prior service dating back to the board’s 1993 inception.

            Most notably, Johnson stressed that while he is against pollution, he has yet to be convinced that the town’s 2021 septic bylaw requiring denitrification technology in any new septic installations is backed by solid data. He asserted that the area around the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is considered the most vulnerable area, did not produce evidence when tested. He suggested Marion is requiring residents to spend money on a problem that remains unproven.

            His background in construction and real estate informed his concern with housing issues and keeping Marion’s water safe with proper septic systems. The board in his era was at the forefront of state Title 5, septic legislation and the expansion of sewer lines to Dexter Beach and on Converse Road.

            Johnson said he was voted out of office when his challenger, a physician, wanted to ban menthol cigarettes in Marion and was supported by voters. Johnson took a break from town government but remained involved by serving on subcommittees.

            “Just as a fill-in would be a good fit. I’m not out to break any barriers or what have you, but I thought I’d offer my services,” he told the Select Board.

            McMichael, who had been based in Edgartown, told the boards that no vacancy should exist on any board or committee in town so she applied.

            “I’m not looking for a new career. I think you have a good candidate that I was just listening to. I’m not really trying to run for office here,” she said.

            McMichael also offered, however, a vast array of nursing experience and public service on Martha’s Vineyard, where she also performed the work of a health agent and encountered to dramatic proportions the hoarding problems recently discussed in Marion.

            After noting she is 78 years old, Howard assured McMichael that if hired, she would be the junior member of the board. The levity in the Police Station training room helped offset some of the more gruesome aspects of the discussion.

            The Select Board did vote on some appointments, most notably the promotion of Becky Tilden to interim director of the Department of Public Works. The longtime employee fills the role that Nathaniel Munafo vacates in order to replace Sewer Department chief Frank Cooper, who has retired from the lead role at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

            The board also voted to certify Tilden to act on the town’s behalf for the MassDEP DWSRF Lead Service Line (LSL) Inventories Loan Application. It is not anticipated that the state-mandated evaluation of lead water lines will yield any positive results.

            Following interviews, Toby Ast was appointed to an associate member on the Affordable Housing Trust,            Millie Seeberg to an associate member with the Conservation Commission and Cheryl Souza to regular member of the Marine Resources Commission.

            On Police Chief Richard Nighelli’s recommendation, the board voted to appoint Ashley Robbins as a full-time patrol officer effective immediately.

            In his Town Administrator’s Report, McGrail proposed a FY24 budget timeline, including dates for new-growth estimates from the assessors, committee reports, Finance Committee and schools included.

            He also gave the Select Board members an update on the September 23 meeting of the DPW Building Committee, which held September 15 site visits to the Kittansett Club and the Rochester DPW facility.

            McGrail and Parker agreed significant progress was made during Friday’s meeting of the committee with lead architect Will Saltonstall, who will take feedback and revise his design and present preliminary cost estimates.

            If cost estimates are in line with the budget, McGrail anticipates bidding out construction in January with construction in summer 2023. “Bringing Will on board really changed the game for us,” he said.

            The problem of people scavenging the Marion Transfer Station for metal scraps for profit, an unsafe practice according to the DPW’s Jody Dickerson may be coming to an end. The Select Board voted to approve the station policy as presented by Dickerson and Tilden.

            Parker suggested based on feedback that the DPW consider extending Saturday hours by one hour. Tilden will analyze costs and report back to the board.

            The voted to approve the Marion Cub Scout Pack 32’s request to close Holmes Street on Saturday, November 5, for its annual Soap Box Derby between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm. The rain date is November 6.

            Two requests for water/sewer abatements at 16 Maple Avenue and 13 Joanne Drive were voted down by the board.

            Nine water/sewer commitments were approved, led by one in the amount of $2,036,899.85 (quarterly billing September 15.) The second highest in cost was $16,372.09 (quarterly billing September 16) and the third $3,224.90 (quarterly billing September 14.)

            The next meeting of the Marion Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4, at 5:00 pm at the Marion Police Station on Route 6.

Marion Select Board

By Mick Colageo

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