EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 25, 2012

Editorial: Methuen’s health board needs fixing

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Volunteers on appointed community boards and committees can have thankless jobs. The hours can be long and the preparation time for meetings onerous.

That said, people should not volunteer for these posts unless they are willing to make the necessary commitment.

In Methuen, the Board of Health has met just twice in the last seven months due to poor attendance. The three-member board needs all three members present to act. The board failed to meet its 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,” Methuen Health Director Brian LaGrasse told reporter Brian Messenger.

By failing to meet its quorum, the Board of Health has failed in some of its important duties. The board did not vote before the town sprayed for mosquitoes in July. Mosquitoes in the city had tested positive for West Nile virus. One of the board’s tasks is to vote to approve pesticide spraying.

The members of the Board of Health are Joyce Hersey, Ray Wrobel and Dr. Sudarshan Chatterjee of North Andover. Wrobel attends regularly. But Hersey has been unable to attend after back surgery and is expected to miss several more months.

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

One member of the board must be a physician. Chatterjee was appointed in 2006 after the city was unable to find a Methuen doctor willing to volunteer for the post.

Mayor Stephen Zanni wants to expand the board from three members to five, which would make it easier to reach a quorum each month. The City Council unanimously approved the measure and a final vote is scheduled for Nov. 5.

That should solve the problem. Another solution would be for the board members who cannot attend regularly to resign and have more reliable individuals appointed in their place.

The Board of Health is an important governmental body. It must be one that functions properly.