EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 24, 2012

Poor attendance plagues health board

Mayor proposes expansion to five members

By Brian Messenger bmessenger@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — The city’s Board of Health has met just twice in the last seven months due to poor attendance. Mayor Stephen Zanni is prescribing a quick fix: expanding the volunteer board from three to five members.

The board failed to have a three-member quorum at monthly meetings scheduled for April, May, July, August and October. Its last two meetings were held in June and September.

“It’s been more sporadic than we would like,” said Methuen Health Director Brian LaGrasse.

Poor attendance prevented the board from voting before the city sprayed pesticide in July, when mosquitos in the city tested positive for West Nile virus. Normally, LaGrasse said the board votes to approve spraying.

Zanni first proposed the expansion from three to five members Oct. 15, one day before the board’s cancelled October meeting was scheduled. His resolution was approved unanimously by the City Council and a second and final vote is expected Nov. 5.

“I think it’s important I get that board in the right position,” said Zanni.

Zanni said residents interested in applying for the Board of Health can fill out a talent bank application on the city’s website.

The Board of Health is comprised of Dr. Sudarshan Chatterjee of North Andover, Joyce Hersey of Myrtle Street, and Ray Wrobel of Tanglewood Circle. Members serve three-year terms.

Hersey was originally appointed to the board in July 2002 by former Mayor Sharon Pollard. But LaGrasse said Hersey has been unable to attend meetings after undergoing back surgery earlier this year and is not expected back for several months.

LaGrasse said Dr. Chatterjee is “extremely busy,” and has had difficulty attending meetings between running a private practice and family commitments.

One member on the Board of Health must be a physician.

Chatterjee was appointed to the board by former Mayor William Manzi in July 2006. LaGrasse said the city was unable to find a Methuen doctor to volunteer for the board. “We had to branch out,” said LaGrasse.

Wrobel was appointed to the board by Manzi in August 2011. LaGrasse said Wrobel has been the board’s most reliable member in recent months. “He’s been our mainstay so far,” said LaGrasse.

The board is scheduled to meet again Nov. 20.

LaGrasse has worked with a five-member Health board in Amesbury, where he was health director before coming to Methuen in 2006.

“It works fantastically,” said LaGrasse. “You never have quorum issues and things seem to always go smoothly.”