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Board of Health not amenable to developer’s request to waive water testing requirement

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Featured: News, News

A developer’s request to the Board of Health for a waiver of the potable water testing requirement for a Box Mill Road property could set a precedent if approved by the town, members cautioned before unanimously voting down the request at Monday’s meeting.

In a previous letter, Richard Barbieri stated that a well has been contaminated by sodium chloride. He suspected the cause to be the salting of the Hopkinton High School parking lot, which abuts the Box Mill Road property. He noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has waived the limit for sodium in the water.

At the meeting, Barbieri said this situation has affected the water coming into a custom-built home. He asked if he could put a water filtration device on the kitchen sink only, noting that the cost of renovating the entire home would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“I don’t see a path to waiving this process,” said board chair Richard Jacobs.

Board vice chair Nasiba Mannan asked Barbieri why he didn’t connect to the town’s water line. Barbieri replied that the town would have been able to connect the water line to the property, but not the sewer line.

Health Director Shaun McAuliffe said he met with Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus and town counsel about the situation.

“They are concerned that they don’t want the town to assume the liability associated with potential health risks,” said McAuliffe. “The concern is that children are drinking water from the bathroom and brushing their teeth. To set an expectation that they’re only going to go to the kitchen sink was unrealistic in town counsel’s eyes.”

Mannan added that approving the proposed kitchen modification would set a precedent for future applicants.

The board will revisit the issue at its March 18 meeting.

Revolving fund for nursing program sought

In other news, the board discussed the need for the nursing program to have a revolving fund that will enable it to respond to issues more effectively.

A revolving fund for the nursing program would allow for the financing of projects that then would be able to generate revenue, explained Public Health Nurse Simone Carter. The department would become less reliant on the allocation of funding through the town’s annual budget.

Carter stressed that there are improvements she would like to see in Hopkinton that could be addressed with revolving health funds. Rather than taking a reactive stance, the money would allow the department to enhance education and disease prevention programs and focus on community outreach.

One area of concern for Carter is the rising rates of childhood asthma in town compared with neighborhood communities. Another is that older residents in particular either can’t get doctors’ appointments quickly or have trouble getting transportation to them.

“The health care system as a whole has sort of pulled away from the prevention and the education and have gone into intervention,” Carter said.

Her goal is to bring equitable clinical services to the residents who need them before they are faced with a medical emergency. Ultimately, she said, preventive care would reduce the number of emergency calls and the strain on first responders, saving money in the long run.

Stressed Carter: “The earlier we can intervene, the less chronic disease, dementia and heart disease [we’ll have].”

The revolving fund “would be financially sustainable and be in keeping with the town’s vision … about what the town would like to see budgetary growth be,” according to Carter.

Board approves Health Department’s FY 25 operating budget

The board unanimously approved the Health Department’s fiscal year 2025 operating budget of $499,174.39. While wages and salaries will increase because of contractual obligations, McAuliffe said the operating budget “would remain static for two, possibly three years.”

“I think we’ll end up in a decent spot,” McAuliffe said. “I will be arguing for some salary adjustments.”

McAuliffe will appear before the Select Board with his budget recommendation.

Health services community survey released

McAuliffe said the department’s health services community survey was released via social media. A press release is expected to be released following the meeting. He noted that a previous survey received more than 1,000 responses.

“This is a department that people want to see succeed,” he said. “We bring a lot of value to Hopkinton.”

Carrter added that part of that value consists of knowledge and connecting community members to needed resources.

Click here for the survey link.

Progress made on document digitization

McAuliffe said 10 more boxes of documents have been sent to the company that is digitizing them for the town’s Laserfiche system. The first 10 boxes of documents all have all been uploaded. There may be a future opportunity to complete this task within Town Hall rather than via a contractor.

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