The week in government: Board to vote on Public Health staffing changes

by beth on December 30, 2020

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Above: On Monday morning, I didn’t post my weekly coverage of government meetings, because no meetings were posted. I just discovered that one meeting popped up this week.

Since there’s only one meeting scheduled for this week – and it deserves coverage – I’m breaking with my usual format for this weekly post.

Recently, I wrote about the understaffing woes in Southborough’s Public Health Department. On New Year’s Eve morning, the Board of Health will vote on changes to personnel.

The agenda posted late on Monday afternoon shows the Board is planning to officially accept the resignations of the Public Health Director and Public Health Nurse. Then, the Board will vote on accepting Dr. Heather Alker, MD, MPH as the “interim Public Health Director”.

The agenda doesn’t indicate whether that is a part-time or full-time position. In the Board’s December 18th meeting, BOH Chair Mary Lou Woodford presented pursuing the hire as a 20 hour per week position based on funds that would be freed up by the staff resignations.

As I posted last week, those two outgoing staff members have been working closer to full-time hours throughout the pandemic. However, the new hire was selected to bring in public health leadership expertise the department had lacked.

When I covered the issue last week, the Board was still seeking clarification from Town Counsel on their ability to contract staff. With the hiring item on the agenda along with “Discussion and resolution of contracting issues”, it seems likely the Board got the answer they were hoping for.

The Board will also vote on allowing additional hours for their administrative assistant to cover the BOH phone on weekends and holidays. Plus, they’ll vote on their proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. Based on past discussions, the Board hopes to significantly increase their budget to better staff the department.

Not on this agenda is the Board’s prior request for additional staffing funds for the first half of 2021. Use of the Town’s reserve funds would require Advisory Committee approval.

Advisory’s next meeting has yet to be posted, but it shouldn’t be too far off. The Committee expected to continue to meet frequently this winter as it works on the budgets for Annual Town Meeting in March. Advisory’s most recent agenda included the line “Board of Health – continued discussion- standing item until issues resolved”.

As with all of the Town’s public meetings these days, the BOH meeting will be held over Zoom and also available to view over YouTube. It will take place tomorrow, Thursday, December 31st at 10:00 am.

At this point, it is too late for any other meetings to be scheduled this week under Open Meeting Law (unless it is deemed an emergency that requires quickly convening).

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