Observing our 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

Board of Health – March 12, 2024

Hybrid Meeting – Recorded

LWVM Observer: Tom Krueger

Members in Attendance: Andrew Petty, Tom McMahon, Joanne Miller, Helaine Hazlett


Tobacco Control 

Joyce Redford, the director of the North Shore Cape Ann Tobacco Control program, has the responsibility for 16 municipalities on the North Shore. Her role is to review and update tobacco regulations, as well as for cannabis and synthetic cannabis. She reviewed 17 items that the Town of Marblehead could adopt that mirror the state law or exceed it. One major revision would be for the penalties of selling to a minor.  Previously the first violation was $100 and a three-day suspension, the second $200 and a seven-day suspension the third $300 and a 30-day suspension. The state has as a minimum first $1000 three-day suspension; second $2000 seven-day suspension third $3000 30-day suspension. These violations can be additive over a 36-month period. In addition, other bans can include blunt wraps (rolled leaves), educational institutions sale, and minimal cigar pricing. The process if found in violation is to send a letter, allow a chance for appeal to the Board of Health, and ability to take to it to Superior Court. Other issues with recommendations regarding bans were for smoking bars, space between retailers, etc.

Joyce does not check for compliance of non-licensed cannabis sales. If discovered, the Police Department should be called. Another area of concern is synthetic cannabis. This refers to a substance such as hemp that has a low THC content that is chemically altered to give a high, e.g. Delta 8. These altered products have now been found in vapes, drinks, even Skittle-like candies. It was recommended that the BOH tie bans on these into the tobacco regulations. The process for such regulations is as follows: draft regulation, send to town counsel, back to the board, and a public hearing.

Substance Abuse Education

Mr. McMahon has proposed having a forum/open mike for people to talk about substance abuse, an often ignored problem in Marblehead. He noted that there is a lot of interest in this and other towns have done this (Hingham). Mr. Petty offered that these could be evening events, that might start small where people and families could share their experiences. Mr. McMahon went on to say it is impactful to know when it happens in Marblehead, how past stories get forgotten, and important to hear all sides. There was concern from other board members about how this might act in negative ways as a “trigger” as well as the need to involve other resources, such as, the MHTF, the Counseling Center, etc.  Mr. McMahon stated that he wanted this to be under the auspices of the board, like the MHTF. 

At this point the Ms. Hazlett, chair of the BOH, invited the residents who attended the meeting and wanted to speak about substance abuse. The first resident related the story of her now-23-year-old son who was arrested and she has not seen since 2020. She found no support or resources for her in town. She proceeded to tell of her own mission to form parent groups, to commiserate, etc. She noted that in helping others, the first outreach has to have a personal connection. The second resident told of his daughter who was addicted from the ages of 18 to 28 and the pattern that so often involves lying, stealing, poor grades, etc. She eventually did recover and has learned to cope. He supports a panel discussion with others who have learned to cope. The third resident described the programs he instituted in the military (Navy’s Drug Free America) that emphasize prevention. His vision was of a task force that involved educators and parents. 

In reference to a forum, two board members wanted to have mental health counseling involved for support and also have a plan in place if this was to operate under the auspices of the board. It was suggested that if not with the board, Mr. McMahon could proceed independently. After this, the discourse devolved into angry outbursts. Mr. McMahon was reminded by Ms. Miller about the lessons from their recent retreat: active listening. Finally, Mr. McMahon made a motion for the board to move towards planning substance abuse education events. This was not seconded. 

Mr. Petty told the board that there are 25 SAM emergency boxes (each contains two doses of Narcan, safety breathing barrier, etc.) The boxes will go near AED machines and other locations.  

FY25 Budget

The WASTE budget submitted will be level funded despite the rising costs of the following: salaries (per contract), waste collection, grinding/compost removal, disposal, and diesel fuel. The HD needs to lease a John Deere truck and will proceed with buying and installing a stickerless system for car and truck use of the transfer station. Such a system is used with success by towns such as, Winchester, Plymouth, and Rockport.  A motion to accept the waste budget was made and passed.

The HEALTH budget has some minor changes and did include a $60,000 contribution to the Marblehead Counseling Center. A motion was made and passed to accept this budget. The next step is to present these to the Finance Committee on March 25. 

Mental Health Task Force Update

The task force met on March 11 and Julia Ferreira and Gina Hartz from MHS have the results of the Youth Risk Survey which will be presented to the School Committee. The task force is trying to understand the needs of the school. Some ideas are peer to peer training and how to empower and train teens. Separately, Melissa Marks will author the next MHD Cares column. The next task force meeting is April 1 and will be in-person and by Zoom

Transfer Station

Project Update – Bids had gone out but were confusing, so that these were corrected and the bids of the subcontractors were due March 14.  The bids for the general contractors were due on March

Cameras – The cameras are “live” at the transfer station and the feeds can be viewed at multiple locations (Scale House, Police Department, and Mr. Petty’s desk). It is important that disposed material go to the correct location.

Staff – A new person was hired with funds from the waste revolving budget and this will allow the HD secretary to return to the office and not “man” the Scale House. 

Website – There was only a brief discussion as to what to have on the website regarding mental and physical health resources. Marblehead is looking to revamp its website in the near future. 

Public Comment – Two residents had brief questions about the bidding process that Mr. Petty explained.

The next board meeting is scheduled for April 9, 2024