SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 11, 2013

Health board asks to resize

7-member panel oversees 6 Salem employees; council rejected previous request

SALEM — At its full complement of seven members, the Board of Health is larger than the department it supervises, which has just six employees.

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Barbara Poremba, who chairs the board.

That’s why she and other board members intend to ask the City Council — again — in the coming months to reduce the size of the health board, even though the council voted against the idea in November.

“The request is very simple, consistent with history and is common sense,” Poremba said. “Our purpose is to ensure the health of the community. We are not a political board, and somehow this issue is being made political. And I don’t think that’s very productive.”

Although it’s supposed to have seven members, the health board currently has only three, due to vacancies and resignations. The board has canceled two of its last four meetings because it couldn’t get the required quorum of four people.

Mayor Kim Driscoll said she is holding off on appointing people to the Board of Health until the issue of the board’s size is resolved.

“The board is very much interested in revisiting this issue with the council,” Driscoll said. “It doesn’t make sense to appoint additional members if (the board ends up being resized). There are some long-standing board members that have given lots of time and feel strongly. ... I want to give them the opportunity to work with the council on it.”

The Board of Health normally meets once a month. The board did meet on Nov. 13 and Feb. 12 but canceled meetings on Dec. 11 and Jan. 8. Its next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Health Agent Larry Ramdin said it’s affecting his day-to-day work.

“It’s impossible to really transact any business the board needs to address,” Ramdin said. “If I have to move for a suspension order on a place or bring any orders for hearings before the board, I can’t ... because the board lacks a quorum to meet.”

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