EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 1, 2013

Letter: Methuen council should rethink eliminating health director

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

Last week the Methuen City Council passed the 2014 fiscal budget. In this difficult fiscal environment, the City Council attempted to assist taxpayers by making budgetary reductions that would lower the overall tax burden.

There is one cut, the position of director of public health, that I disagree with strongly. I do believe that my colleagues did what they thought was best. But cuts that have those types of impacts need to be discussed in advance, so that the full council has adequate time to review the response of the mayor and the impacted department head to such a dramatic management change. Had the City Council done due diligence before removing the director of public health position, I believe that cut would not have been made.

The City of Methuen is a large community that cannot, in my opinion, operate without a full-time director of public health. It is critical that we look, as a City Council, at the full job duties of the director, and not just the ones that we are most familiar with.

When I have looked at the full gamut of job responsibilities, I realized how important to the health and well-being of Methuen’s citizens this job is. Methuen has been the lead agency in a successful regional grant program, which will now be endangered by our lack of a director. A qualified director must provide the necessary leadership on issues as diverse as protecting against West Nile virus, pandemic outbreaks and providing immunization programs to Methuen’s citizens.

In light of the critical importance of this position to the citizens of Methuen, I urge my council colleagues to join me in calling for an immediate joint meeting with Methuen’s Board of Health, the mayor and the economic development director to discuss how to best address the elimination of the position of public health director. It is a meeting that should have occurred before we made this cut.

Jamie Atkinson

Central District councilor