SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 9, 2013

Health board pursuing reduction

SALEM — The Board of Health voted last night to pursue decreasing the board’s makeup from seven to three members.

Although the City Council has discussed the issue previously, the Board of Health has yet to formally petition the council to go to three members. Last night, the board voted to bring an order to the City Council to petition the state Legislature to be able to decrease from seven to three members.

Councilor Thomas Furey, the council’s liaison to the Board of Health, said he would bring the proposal to the council’s meeting on Thursday.

Board of Health Chairwoman Barbara Poremba said a smaller board would be more consistent with surrounding cities, all of which have three-person health boards. Currently, the Salem board is larger than the six-person department it supervises.

Although the Salem Board of Health is a seven-member body, it canceled meetings in December, January and March because it didn’t have the required quorum of four people, due to vacancies and resignations.

Last night, Larissa Lucas, the most recent member to step down, sat in for the meeting. Poremba said Lucas’ resignation in December is “pending replacement.”

In addition to Furey, Councilor William Legault was in the audience at last night’s meeting.

The issue of the Board of Health’s size was brought up in a City Council subcommittee meeting March 26, at which just two councilors made comments in support of shrinking the board to three. Ultimately, the council voted to ask Mayor Kim Driscoll to make appointments so the health board can reach its required quorum of four.

A 1912 state law established local boards of health at three members. Salem’s board was enlarged in the 1970s to manage a city-owned hospital.

The city gave up control of that hospital — the former Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehabilitation Hospital, now Spaulding Hospital for Continuing Medical Care North Shore — decades ago. Now, the Board of Health supports repealing the 1972 amendment to state law that allowed the board to go to seven members.

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