Friday, August 13, 2010
Selectmen consider regionalization of some Board of Health functions
Board of Health (BOH) member Bill Risso recommended against regionalization when he spoke at the July 27 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. After participating in two seminars on the topic, he concluded that for a town like Carlisle there would not be a net cost saving. “It was my impression that the state is pushing this,” he said, explaining that the state was interested in trying to get towns with high levels of service and those with low levels of service to merge together so that the combined service meets a certain minimum level. “They are trying to do that without much funding,” he said. However, he added that matching funds might be available from the state to get regionalization started.
Two types of regionalization for BOH functions were discussed: shared services or health districts. No Town Meeting vote would be required to adopt either strategy.
As an example of shared health services, Risso said that Belmont and Lexington share nurses, and with Watertown they each share hazardous waste control. He said, “They had some issues with nursing – two days they work with one town and two days another town with two separate bosses.”
Risso cited Barnstable as an example of a town in a health district. He said Barnstable is part of a county district which includes 15 towns. He said the shared services are financed through a county tax in addition to the town tax. He said, “They all still have a Board of Health and an agent or director.”
He summarized Carlisle’s situation, “Our nurses operate out of the school. We’ve had some shared services with Concord. Concord has provided us with food inspection. We’re looking into contracting that out (at an hourly rate). Title 5 inspections run themselves and pay for themselves.”
BOS Chair John Williams asked, “What comprises the majority of the Board of Health work?” Risso responded, “Probably septic systems and that is all funded by user fees.” Williams said, “It is not likely to save money and you are pretty nimble to hire specialty services.” Risso added, “We have a great volunteer base in this town to do things like the H1N1 vaccinations.”
Selectman Doug Stevenson said, “My question is about towns that we consider similar to Carlisle: Boxboro, Groton, Harvard, Shirley. Have you looked at how those communities are set up?” Risso responded that he only knew about those towns discussed at the two seminars. He said, “We could look into that.”
Williams concluded, “We haven’t decided to stop looking into regionalization. I’d very much value your input if you could look a little more into it.” Risso agreed to continue with his fact-finding. ∆
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