League of Women Voters: Observing your town government in action

Members of the League of Women Voters of Marblehead, front row from left: Shari Pressman, Marta Bach, Alexa Singer, and Tom Krueger; second row from left: Judy Gates, Bonnie Grenier, Lee Mondale, Kathy Breslin, Polly Whitmore, and Mimi Hollister; and third row from left: Don Gardner, Kathy Leonardson, Nancy Powell, and Phil Blaisdell, gather in front of the Old Town House. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Observation reports are submitted by Marblehead League of Women Voters members who have attended meetings of various town boards and commissions. Observers are solely responsible for accuracy of the information. Complete reports can be found on the LWV of Marblehead Website www.lwvmarblehead.org.



March 6, 2023, at the

Harbormaster’s Office

LWVM Observer: Kathy Breslin

Commercial fishermen’s State St Conveyor belt repairs discussion The commercial fishermen take care of the maintenance of the conveyer belt. This year a mounting pin needs replacing, and the Town will assist.

FY 24 budget updates

Nothing to report as the Town Finance Dept has not finalized their budget.

Harbormaster report

Parker’s boatyard: the two new floats are complete. Craig Smith and the the Marblehead harbormaster’s crew built them. The State St. gangway had a snapped bridle plate, tearing the eyebolts off. It was sent back to Gloucester where it was built and repaired at no charge.

State St. bathroom: a meeting is planned with the Harbormaster, Select Board, and resident Phil Blaisdell. Another Federal grant may be available to completely replace the bathroom. If it is state of the art it will be easier to transfer to another department. Currently the plumbing leaks, there is no insulation, and heating pipes can freeze. It needs a new roof. The cost to heat the building in the cold season is $500 per month.

Moorings: there will be 5 boats in the harbor in the 50-60 ft long range. DockWa opens March 15. There are usually 200 requests for the season. There is a 3-day minimum for the July 4 holiday. Moorings are $50/night, $6/ft per night.

Busy sailing season: From May 1-Oct 31 there is a regatta every weekend, in addition to the Halifax race. The Beringer Bowl regatta is not likely to happen but may be replaced by a one-day race to Scituate and back. There will be another Lindsay Smith regatta. Salem Harbor has 200 transient moorings. Hawthorne Cove in Salem has a launch service.



Feb. 6, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at the Harbormaster’s Office

LWVM Observer

Kathy Breslin

Public questions on

State Street Bathroom

Resident Phil Blaisdell brought up Article 32, sponsored by the Board of Selectmen and others, which was passed at Town Meeting in May 1996. It provided that the State St. bathroom will be kept open year-round, with the Recreation and Parks Dept. in charge; funding was provided. Ultimately the furnace for heating during the winter was not serviced or maintained, it failed, and the pipes burst. Jurisdiction was subsequently transferred from Rec and Parks to Harbors and Waters.

It has not been kept open during the winter for some years. Phil offered to assemble a group of volunteers to maintain the bathroom as had been done in the past. The harbormaster, Mark Souza, stated that the furnace would likely need to be replaced. The recent $50,000 State grant to renovate the bathroom did not address the gas bills for heating. In addition, there is no line item for heating the bathroom in the general facilities budget. The Harbors and Waters Board does not feel they should oversee maintaining the bathroom. Mark stated he will speak to Amy McHugh about the furnace and that he would investigate an alternative department to manage the State St bathroom.

The other public bathrooms are managed by Rec and Parks. Phil commented that keeping the State St bathroom open year-round would benefit residents and, especially, tourists. In addition, Town Meeting voted for it and the Town’s will should be upheld. Rockport has a bathroom open year-round on T Wharf. Resident Steve Wolf mentioned that the Marblehead Harbor Plan is in the rough draft phase and open for comments. Mark stated that he will submit comments for the State St. Revitalization plan.

FY 24 budget discussions

Nothing to report since the last meeting.

Harbormaster report

Parker’s boatyard docks are 90 percent built, awaiting decking. Dave Haley moves all our docks. He recently found the missing Village Street dock and brought it back.

New software system update

The software company didn’t understand our customer’s issues. Mark has been on the phone with them daily. We require documentation and registration for our mooring permits; other towns don’t. Mark would like to eliminate the documentation and registration requirements. Now we need the expiration date and registration number. The West Shore mooring wait list is now 2-3 years.

Stramsky’s beach accessibility: The eel grass is an issue, unsure about limitations. Ray Bates was consulted and found too many plants, but they are not on the eel grass map. We need a survey; then the area will get on the eel grass map.



LWVM Observer

Thomas Krueger

1.Marblehead Counseling Center

Ruth Ferguson, president of the board for MCC, and Ron Grenier, board member, came to thank the BOH for the support with the funds ($145,000) from ARPA. The MCC works collaboratively multiple town organizations as well as the Health Department.

They gave the following update: staffing -in the past 4 week they have hired a manager, senior therapist and clinical supervisor; the information systems – they have a board member with strong technical background who is advising; further improvements  on telehealth in order to work more smoothly; capital improvements — they are in consultation with the Town about exterior work and ARPA funds are being used for structural improvements and a new boiler. Asked about telehealth currently, they responded that a hybrid model is continuing.

Some clients and some clinicians find that telehealth is much more efficient. A side benefit occurred when the center had to be closed for weather reasons, allowing some visits to continue via telehealth. There is a question whether or not insurers will still pay for telehealth visits now that the COVID emergency regulations are over. Ruth gave some statistics about the visits at the MCC over the past year. There were 6,000 hrs of therapy for 500 clients, of which 80 percent are MHD residents. The age breakdown was as follows: 8 percent age 9-13; 21 percent, 14-21; 24 percent, 22-40; 36 percent, 41-70, and 11 percent, above 70. Some clinicians are not comfortable treating children and scheduling can be difficult at certain hours.

Currently there are 247 people on a wait list with 100 of these MHD residents. NOTE MHD residents get priority. The clinicians both full and part time work certain hours which may not always match those of clients.

Ruth reviewed the intake process which immediately determines those in need of a) hospital services, b) serious – urgent, and c) less immediate. The MCC receives about five calls a day for new services, about 100 per month. They have received calls from “far away” in state as well as some from out of state.

In more general comments Mr. Petty noted that we are in a new era and the stigma is now being broken.  The HD and BOH understand the need and hopefully more funds to fix it can be found.  Numerous other organizations in MDH (MHTF, police department, schools, etc.) are trying to fill gaps and help.

The MCC often coordinates with other organizations, e.g. MHD Female Humane Society, Making Ends Meet, etc. to help with more social service needs.  Organizations such as the Gerry 5 ran a fund raiser, and the Select Board with sponsor a golf tournament with proceed to go to the MCC this May.

Mr. Petty talked about the FY2024 budget in which departments were asked to reduce spending by 4 percent.  He stated that there will be NO reduction in staff, salaries or benefits, which leaves only a few line items that can be reduced.  This would mean that the MCC would receive from the HD a reduction from the usual $60K by $10,400.  Upon hearing this the Board moved and passed the decision that this would be made up from the remaining ARPA funds.

2.Tobacco Control Discussion

Mr. Petty presented to the Board a draft of a local regulation that would ban the sale of Delta 9 and Kratom in MHD. There is a state regulation via the Department of Agriculture already but this is not enforced. By passing a local regulation this would allow inspection and enforcement by the tobacco control officer as well as HD and police. Mr. Petty asked the board members to read over the draft, ask questions, etc.

The tobacco control officer could bring in some of the products so that board member could view them. If the regulation is passed by the board, then the next steps include review by the town counsel and how it would fit with other regulations.

3.Mental Health Task Force Update

Ms. Miller gave an update from the MHTF.  There will be a Healthy Kid Day at the YMCA on 4/25/23 at which the MHTF will be present along with Child and Family Services, other groups, private clinicians, etc. There may be an opportunity for quick assessments and some other activities, such as, mindfulness practice, bar, etc.

Will Dowd from the Marblehead Current has offered the MHTF a monthly article for mental health awareness.

Ms. Miller updated the board about the ARPA funds request.  This included a number of items – website improvements and maintenance, a tent for marketing, a brochure, etc. The total request was $2650-3000.

4.Transfer Station Facility Update

Mr. Petty gave an update about the progress of the TS facility renovation. There are number of steps that still need to be done; a major one is MA DEP permitting, a process that can take up to 4 months. Hopefully this can just be a notification which would speed up the process. Mr. Petty gave a proposed month by month timeline beginning in May and ending with bids by September.

Aspects of the project include:

1) the need for a new compactor (a Cram A Lot CO-12) that is equal to the current one. This would have to be built and needs a 30 week lead time. The cost would be $257K.  This request was moved and passed by the Board. 2) powered motorized gate with keypad along the main residential entrance. 3) a new front gate, etc.  Mr. Petty is trying to separate some of the smaller projects from the larger contract, so that they can be bid on separately with some cost savings. There are number of elements where timing is crucial, e.g. work on the scale and compactor, where if one is down the other cannot be used.

5.Director’s Report


For the health department the BOH has already approved a level funded budget for FY2024. The HD (as all others are) are being asked to prepare a reduced budget by 4 percent.  Mr. Petty stated up front that there would be NO salary or benefit decreases nor reduction in staff. This leaves only a few line items to reduce: $2300 in legal, $10,400 to the MCC. The reduced FY2024 HD budget would be $303,879.

For waste management, he stated again that there would be NO reduction in salary, benefits or personnel. This likewise left only a few line items that reduced: maintenance $10K, hauling $4,500, landfill maintenance $500. The reduced budget would then be $2,625,804. The budget will be presented to Fin Com on 4/3/23.  Mr. Petty and Ms. Miller will be presenting the budget.


There is still Covid in the community but the numbers, deaths, and percent positive tests are all down.  At this point the best measure of COVID is via the wastewater.

C) Leaf collection

Leaf collection will occur the weeks of 4/24, 5/15, and 6/5. JRM tries to collect on the same day as trash, but this not always be possible.  It will be collected by the end of the week.

D) Household Hazardous Waste

The firm, ACD, that did curbside pickup was bought by another company and is no longer doing this.  There are no other vendors offering that service. Future HHW will be done on a Saturday at the transfer station.  Only two firms offer this service.

E) Textile ban

With the textile disposal bans in the waste, more is being recycled. CMRK has new larger bins at the transfer station which can take an expanded number of items.  They offer home pick up if there is a large amount.

F) Accreditation

The HD cannot be accredited because the department staffing is too small. For a town of the size of MHD there would need to be 17.9 full time employees.


The chair said that “reasonable” time for comment would be 4 minutes, and there would be no “back and forth” with the board.

Next meeting is schedule for 4/11/23