Hazlett selected as Board of Health chair

Board of Health member Helaine Hazlett was elected as the board’s new chair. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Helaine Hazlett was elected as chair of the Board of Health for the upcoming year at the board’s reorganization meeting Tuesday night. She will be replacing former chair Todd Belf-Becker, who did not run for reelection in June.

Hazlett was voted chair by a 2-1 margin, with Hazlett and board member Joanne Miller voting for, and new board member Thomas McMahon voting against. 

Miller nominated Hazlett, but McMahon questioned Hazlett’s leadership, calling her out on the fact that she has not used a Transfer Station sticker, which is a permit to use the facility. He instead nominated Miller for board chair, citing “tension” and “trust issues” between himself and Hazlett. That motion was not seconded by either member. 

“I think it’s not the correct decision,” he said. “A chair should show leadership qualities and a major leadership quality would be doing what everyone else is supposed to do, I’d say by adding a sticker to your car to use the facilities is a big one. I think that has spiraled out of control and because of it, it’s a portion of our general override.”

“My numbers show that we’ve probably lost in the six figures of money because people aren’t using stickers,” he continued. “I think that spirals from leadership. So I think a chair should be a leader and that’s a big part of it.”

Miller responded to McMahon’s comments and praised Hazlett for the leadership she has shown as a member of the board. 

“She is fiercely devoted to the community and … I think that she brings so much experience to the role and also having experience on other boards throughout her tenure,” Miller said. “She has a great deal of expertise that I really value and look to for her leadership.”

Hazlett has previously served on a number of other town boards. She served on the School Committee and is the former president of the Marblehead Counseling Center. She is also currently on the Dollars for Scholars and Friends of Marblehead Public Schools boards, in addition to being the co-chair of the Marblehead Mental Health Task Force. 

Just before the vote, McMahon was still challenging Hazlett.

“I think a great step would be to put the sticker on the car tonight,” McMahon said just before Public Health Director Andrew Petty called for the vote.

Hazlett did not respond to McMahon’s comments, but said after she was elected that she was looking forward to working with him.

“I want to welcome Thomas McMahon to the Board of Health,” she said. “I look forward to healthy discussion and collegiality as we address the issues of maintaining and improving the health of our residents.”

Elsewhere in the board’s reorganization, Miller was elected vice chair and nominated by Hazlett. 

In other board news, Petty provided an update on the Transfer Station project timeline, stating that they will be bringing the plans before the Planning Board to make sure that everything is in place. 

McMahon asked Petty for a timeline on when the compactor would be replaced, to which Petty estimated the end of September or early October.

McMahon then made a motion to replace the employee trailer during the same week as the compactor, as the station will be closed then. 

“The cost of replacing the trailer is extremely minimal,” McMahon said. “And it’s a very good sign of good faith to the employees.” 

After a few minutes of discussion, the motion passed unanimously and Petty said that he would get to work right away.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, town resident Terri Tauro thanked the board for going through with the trailer replacement, expressing her concerns that the current trailer would not make it through the winter.

“It’s seven years old… I doubt that this project is going to be done in two months,” Tauro said. “I think another winter and that trailer could be scary. I think the employees will be really happy that that’s being done for them.”

Petty also provided an update on the testing of Marblehead’s five beaches that takes place every week. He said that the testing is for enterococci, indicator organisms that could make water quality unsafe if it exceeds the maximum contaminant level of 104. Petty noted that most of the beaches have been at less than 10, with Gashouse Beach’s level at 41 last week, and Devereux Beach at 31. All other public beaches were tested at under 10. Since the beginning of the summer, 50 beaches across the state have been closed due to poor water quality, accounting for approximately 4.5% of Massachusetts beaches.