Township Committee Reinstates Autonomous Board of Health
Officials and members of the public applauded the return to the old form of health governance.
At the Springfield Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Committee voted to re-form the township's autonomous Board of Health.
With the vote, the board of health will once again be an appointed board of residents able to make recommendations and take actions indepently of the Township Committee. This marks a change from how the board operated in the later parts of 2012, when officials changed the Board of Health from an autonomous board to one composed of Township Committee members and residents.
The change, which passed in June, 2012, followed a series of protracted and contentious discussions. The vote was split across party lines, with the Committees three Republicans voting in favor and the two Democrats voting against. The move was fiercely debated in meetings, print and online publications and social media.
Introducing the final vote on the ordinance reinstating the autonomous board, Springfield Mayor David Amlen framed the ordinance as a corrective measure.
"This was a change made by the governing body last year," Amlen said. "I think it was a big mistake."
Committee member David Barnett said that after attending a board of health meeting, he believes that decisions on the town's health issues should be made by multiple experts in medical fields.
Dr. Samir Shah, a member of the previous autonomous board, was reappointed to the newly reconstituted board. Shah was a vocal critic of the decision to dissolve the former board of health and said he was happy with the township's decision. While he was a strong advocate of the Westfield Health Department, which handled Springfield's health matters until its contract was not renewed last year, Shah was optimistic about working with the newly contracted Madison Health Department.