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March 27, 2013

Council debates Board of Health

Members vote to recommend that mayor appoint four more people, bringing total to seven

SALEM — The City Council moved toward keeping the Board of Health at seven members last night.

After more than an hour of discussion, councilors voted to recommend that Mayor Kim Driscoll appoint enough people to fill the Board of Health to its full complement of seven people.

The Board of Health is in favor of decreasing its size from seven to three members. Currently, the board has only three members, due to vacancies and resignations, and is unable to reach its required quorum of four people to hold meetings.

“You’ve backed us in a corner ... leaving us with little choice,” Councilor Paul Prevey said to Board of Health Chairwoman Barbara Poremba. “Quorum is a problem you’ve created yourselves.”

“I’m not sure if seven is the right number, if five is the right number or if three is the right number ... (but) we have a nonfunctioning Board of Health at this point, and I don’t believe this should have ever happened,” Councilor William Legault said.

Poremba argued that a smaller board would be more efficient, manageable and consistent with surrounding cities, all of whom have three-member boards of health.

“I hope you will recognize the careful thought we’ve put into this,” Poremba said to councilors last night. “... We’re trying to get the board to where we’re productive.”

Last night, Joseph O’Keefe and Josh Turiel were the only councilors to speak in favor of decreasing the Board of Health to three members. Councilors Todd Siegel, Kevin Carr, Robert McCarthy and Thomas Furey were absent.

A vote of the full council at its meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 93 Washington St., will be needed to send the recommendation to Driscoll to appoint more people to the Board of Health.

Ultimately, the decision lies with Driscoll; she does not have to act on the council’s recommendation.

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