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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 . 

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.

Bob Groder January 23, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Tax Payer, if you attended the meetings in 2012 between 40-50 people spoke out against the BOH being reorganized. This years board is basically reversing a mistake made in 2012 by the former TC leaders. The people have actually spoken as last night not a single person opposed the reversal to an independent board free of TC interference. In fact I spoke in favor of it as did "S" Wenger and a couple of others just to state on the record this was a good decision. I just want any BOH to be free of political interference. CONGRATS to the 2013 TC for fixing what apparently the public wanted.
Bob Groder January 23, 2013 at 03:36 PM
I agree Bart that having professionals do the work of the BOH is what is needed. Put it this way would I hire a WWE wrestler to play on an MLB team? Of course not. TC members have no business making decisions when it comes to the health and well being of the citizens in town. PROFESSIONALS know their field and i was particularly impressed with Dr. B who was an alternate on the 2012 BOH.
Sprinfield Resident tired of the bickering January 23, 2013 at 04:08 PM
As always the bickering continues... So the board could make all sorts of decisions about the financial / public safety and general well being of the town but not the BOH. C'mon. The 'independent' BOH is appointed by the township committee (mayor) and based upon past experiences this is based upon political party or friendship (both sides do it). The only difference is there is no oversight by the elected officials. Why should the BOH be any different than any other committee / function in this town where the people we elect have oversight. If we don't like how they are performing we can vote them out. With that said it is the right of the majority to do what they think is best. That is our political process. Both sides do it and you hope they look at what is best for Springfield and not the party. This has not been the case over the past many years (too many to count). Both sides shut out the minority for most of the discussion / decisions. That is why the residents need to wake up and seek / elect independent candidates who will do what is best for the town and not the political party.
Shane Ronan January 23, 2013 at 04:48 PM
I've made it very clear in the past that I was the EMT member of the former Board of Health, I make no effort to hide it. This was strictly an oversight on my part in my last posting.
Shane Ronan January 23, 2013 at 04:51 PM
What do you think the BoH does? MOST of the important work is done by the DoH, with the BoH providing oversight and managing the finances. Do you not think it's important for the TC to know what is going on with the health of the town? Ask currnet members how much they knew about the workings of the BoH went it was Autonomous and how much they knew when they had to sit through the meetings Further, by having the TC as part of the board of heath, you insured that not everyone was beholden to a single party, which is the case with the autonomous board, since members are political appointees. How many of the members of the 2011-2012 autonomous board had ANY healthcare background?
DaJo January 23, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Bob, you're a democrat mouthpiece. You said the same nonsense over and over again parroting whatever the Dems tell you to say. You even make things up. 40-50 people DID NOT speak out against the reorganization. It's on the record. Go to the tapes and watch the archived meetings. There were no more than 12 people who actually spoke out. The room did have more than usual but they were most members of the party and the friends of the Board members. That is NOT representative of the community. This is a terrible decision and don't talk about what the public wanted because you're clueless about what we the public want. How cute that Amlen and you say Madison has an autonomous board because it's convenient for you when most Boards in the state are NOT autonomous. Saccenti was dragged into this and his own town does not have an autonomous board. Madison also said they work for at least two towns without an autonomous board. When the partial facts suit your case, you ignore the ones that don't. That's disingenuous.
DaJo January 23, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Why is the Board of Health different than the TC??? They both deal with matters of public safety. The TC makes decisions for the police and fire departments but rely on the professionals. Amlen and Huber (a music guy and construction guy) know nothing about public safety yet they are on the public safety committee. They do it because they rely on the Chiefs. The BOH does not need experts to rely on the Health Department. Otherwise, fire the TC since they aren't finance professionals (Barnett, really?), engineering professionals, public safety professionals. Why does the Planning Board have two members of the Township Committee on it by STATE law? Why do TC members have business making some decisions but not others? And the political interference will be there regardless Bob - what isn't getting through your head??? The TC appoints the BOH members so there IS political interference.
BART FRAENKEL January 23, 2013 at 05:18 PM
I disagree with you about the political-ness of makeup of the BOH. While the members were always appointed by the TC, they were usually chosen based on their expertise. Even the members who comprised the BOH that was disbanded last year had members who were appointed by Shehady. Beneath all the smoke of why the change was made last year, the reality of it was that the BOH was making decisions after being presented with information by the Westfield Dept. Of Health that last year's TC majority did not agree with. Because they didn't agree with the BOH and couldn't force them to do what they wanted, the board was disbanded. Any other explanation is really just smoke.
Sprinfield Resident tired of the bickering January 23, 2013 at 06:38 PM
C'mon Bart. As I said in my note both sides do it but not to admit that the appointments aren't political is beyond comprehension. I know some of the members of the autonomous board and they are no more qualified than me or you. They just know the mayor and heads of the political party. I am not disparaging any of the appointees as they are giving their time and expertise to the town. I give them kudos for that. If the autonomous board was making decisions based upon the DoH why can't a board within the TC framework with similar makeup make the same decisions. Since some of their decisions are financial I want this with my elected officials since they can be held accountable to the voters. I do not see a need for autonomy here but again it is a political decision and the majority rules. This is why I think there should be no parties and only independent minded people making decisions that are best for the town.
Bob Groder January 23, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Ps Dana if this reversal of the BOH back to an autonomous board is so wrong why is it between 2 meetings of the TC it wasnt opposed by a single person in the room speaking out publically? In 2012 when it was in reverse every single person who spoke at the hearings was against disbanding the BOH to the format of 2012 which was reversed last night. If that isnt proof in the pudding please furnish proof that there is opposition to having an autonomous Board of Health? The BIG difference in 2013 TC meetings vs. 2012 is that people arent afraid to speak their opinions without being struck down. Even Sandy got some points accross to Mr. Amlen last night and he did in fact listen. In 2012 if you disagreed with Mr. Shehady you got shut down and most times totally ignored. This isnt fiction this is fact. I saw this with my own eyes as even some senior citizens often got ignored.
Bob Groder January 23, 2013 at 06:54 PM
I wish we had that Resident. I get sick of the same nonsense also. unfortunately this is politics.
Marc Krauss January 23, 2013 at 06:54 PM
In NJ every municipality is required to be served by a health department that meets the requirements of State public health laws and regulations. This is where the “Health Professionals” are required to be. NJ state law states, every municipality must provide for the functions of a local Board of Health. Most Boards are composed of the elected officials themselves, or private citizens appointed by the elected officials of their municipality and given the responsibility of the jurisdiction’s public health. There are no required qualifications to be a member of the BOH, just as there are not required qualifications for the members of the township committee, just a desire to serve. The BOH meets only once a month at most (under Dr. Shah they took last summer off) where the Department of Health is on the job daily.
Sprinfield Resident tired of the bickering January 23, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Bob I can tell you why no one spoke is because we (the people) are sick and tired with the way the TC has been run over the last um-teen years from both the Republican and Democratic side. Most people really don't care whether the BoH is autonomous or not. The job they do gets done either way. It really doesn't make a difference whether we say we are for or against it. The political machine will make the decision. I have been attending these meetings on a regular basis and speak when it is an important issue to me. This is not one of them. I agree Ziad showed lack of 'fairness' in letting people speak when he was mayor and was completely wrong how he handled dissension. I remember being at meetings and the way he treated Mr. Amlen were mind blowing. With that said I do believe he, Jerry and Marc did good for this town. They pushed many changes that were good and really cared about the town as a whole. The town was moving in the right direction albeit with a few bumps in the road. I can tell you why people think you are a tool of the Democratic party. It is because the way you come across in you postings and speaking at the TC. Maybe you are not political and independent minded but you surely do not show it.
voter January 23, 2013 at 10:00 PM
I also agree Observer. I don't care who is more qualified than who (although i think its hilarious that the EMT thinks he is more qualified than a PHD). These conversations are so childish and irrelevant. I do care however about the motives behind dissolving the BOH back in June. You simply cannot dissolve a board because you disagree with them- especially when they are acting in the residents best interests. I will never agree with the 2012 approach to government. Its dangerous when one person craves so much power and control.
Shane Ronan January 23, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Interesting, how is a PhD who has no medical background more qualified then an EMT who studies public health and safety?
BART FRAENKEL January 24, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Just for clarification, the Dept of Health is the organization that inspects and monitors the restaurants to make sure they adhere to all necessary guidelines and the public can eat there knowing they were inspected and pased the inspection. When an business is cited with numerous violations or cited for failing to resolve an identified problem, they are brought before the BOH. The BOH has the authority to impose certain penalities. Last year 2 places in particular, both of which had ties to certain TC members, were brought before the BOH. One resolved the issues and did exactly what is needed to make sure they are in compliance. The other complained about being harassed and complained directly to the mayor. The mayor appeared to take the side of the business and as an explanation said this type of environment would be detrimental to the growth of business in our town. Smoke, smoke and more smoke. It was a good idea to reverse the change made last year and thankfully Springfield didn't suffer. As for Mr. Krauss's comment about the BOH not meeting over the summer, he is correct that they didn't meet. However, they did have the ability to meet if necessary and would have if a situation arose, but since they didn't have issues to address, they didn't meet. What he didn't mention was that prior to them being disbanded, they requested to meet with the TC numerous times and were rejected by the mayor.
Sprinfield Resident tired of the bickering January 24, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Bart as much as I would like to believe you are independent minded your pure dislike for Mr. Shehady has clouded your ability to claim any bi-partisianship. I am basing this on your posts over the past year or so. If we truly want to look at the merits of the BoH and what they do it really does not make a difference as to whether they are autonomous or not. The same function can be served by a TC based one as could an autonomous one. Both are gonna be run by political appointees and pursueded as such. It is my opinion that either way the job gets done. I just prefer to have elected officials oversee directly any function in town that has any financial impact on the taxpayer. This political theater is just getting plain silly. Isn't there more important things that our politicians can do then trying to make the other party look bad. What about figuring out a way to lower our extremely high taxes and making Springfield a better place to live.
BART FRAENKEL January 24, 2013 at 01:59 AM
You are correct that in theory an autonomous board really isn't needed. But I really don't think the TC should be involved, especially when there are people with some level of health care expertise available to fill those positions. As for any bias you feel I show, it is not toward either political party. I've always believed that no one side has a monopoly on good ideas and that is why I did work with both sides. I have always acknowledged that Shehady is an intelligent young man, who has the ability to do things properly. Unfortunately he chose to conduct himself in a manner that I believe is wrong. His behavior toward the public has been documented by others, and it was that behavior that I witnessed which completely turned me off of him. That and his inability to speak in anything more then half-truths.
Conor M January 24, 2013 at 03:35 AM
Haven't gone anywhere. This issue has been beaten to death and this is nothing more than a democratic talking point. They use this issue and heaven forbid anyone defends the last administration, every democratic comes out of the woodwork to attack everyone. What more is there to say? Groder spews his nonsense over and over again. Bart hates teShehady despite his backhanded "compliments" of what an intelligent young man he is.
DaJo January 24, 2013 at 03:37 AM
What about my comments? Or you don't mention me because you flagged my comments to get them deleted?
DaJo January 24, 2013 at 03:40 AM
I bet we'll hear nothing but crickets from anonimous. In typical fashion, silence when proven wrong or asked to back up his statements.
Jen P January 24, 2013 at 03:53 AM
I was waiting for you to ask where I was - everyone knows you love an argument and how sad you get when you can't spin something in your favor to make Shehady look bad. Did you miss me that much or did you miss Shehady? If it's true about him, it's very disgusting you would use someone's personal misfortune for some political points. But no one real expects anything more for the Democratic party or their puppets anymore. Absolutely shameful.
B Freeman January 24, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Tony D is right, Bart is Springfield's master Spin (not talking about the classes at the gym either) He always likes to omit key facts to make his point sound credible. Still waiting to know what Bart or his "Gang of Five" did for Springfield during his tenure. So far, all I hear are crickets and lames excuses as to why he can't state what he did for Springfield. Get the BID started, nope. Get the Turf Field started, nope. Saved over a million dollars on township employee healthcare, nope. hmmmm. What did Bart Fraenkel do for Springfield? Oh yeah!! I've got it. He looked at every issue and did nothing about except throw his hands up. That's it, yeah..and now his greatest comeback he'll accuse me of being Mr. Shehady, Sorry Bart - Doh!!
BART FRAENKEL January 24, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Freeman must be feeling better because we've finally heard from him (her?). It's too bad Freeman still doesn't have any integrity, just hiding behind an anonymous name and spewing garbage. When you have the intestinal fortitude to post under your real name, I will answer your questions. But we all know that you'll never do that. Maybe we should ask why you won't?
BART FRAENKEL January 24, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Where's Oliver Stone when you need him? If anyone is a conspiracy theorist, I'd suggest they look at the time lines for all the responses made directly below. Is it purely a coincidence that they're all exactly the same? So I guess that means all those fictitious people read the post from anonimous at exactly the same time and all decided to respond exactly at the same time. Interesting.
Jen P January 24, 2013 at 09:56 PM
What was wrong with Freeman that he's now feeling better? By your logic, you lack integrity since you hid behind a dozen anonymous names and spewed garbage too? Doesn't lend much credibility to anything else you said. Who's to say B Freeman isn't his real name? What's the proof that you're actually Bart Fraenkel - the annoying one that is, not someone else named Bart Fraenkel? Or that Bob Groder who acts all tough on here is the same Bob Groder that can barely get out a sentence and be man enough to say anything to anyone's face? Guess like that State Farm commercial - you have to believe everything on the internet because the internet said so.
Jen P January 24, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Fantastic sleuthwork by anonimous and Bart Fraenkel. You two should work for the FBI. You post, by the time it shows up on Patch (becuase they never show up right away) and time differences of 18 minutes, 8 minutes, 30 minutes aren't enough for you so the conclusion you draw is what? That we're all the same? So Tax Payer and Bart Fraenkel must be the same person. On Wednesday, Tax Payer posted at 9:48 a.m. and Fraenkel posted at 9:52 a.m. Springfield Resident at 1:38 p.m. and Groder at 1:52 p.m. 4 minute differences, 14 minute differences? What are you trying to so desperately prove? That no one except Shehady can possibly disagree with the Democrats in this town? Your tantrums are very tiresome. The same issue gets written about 5 times by this website with no new information or any actual investigative reporting. A headline is thrown out in the wild and the Democratic puppets jump all over it inciting some comment frenzy to win over public sentiment on a forum most people don't read and are sick of. News flash - not everyone agrees with you. You do the same thing of jumping down the throats of anyone who disagrees - the same thing you allege Shehady did (which is not "documented" anywhere besides your statement of an opinion). You sound absolutely foolish. And you keep accusing people of being him saying it was "proven" yet no proof exists. Now supposedly he's in the hospital and that's your argument? Grow up.
Stan B January 24, 2013 at 10:34 PM
I've worked as a tax assessor or assistant assessor in five NJ towns. None ever thought about eliminating its void of politics BOH. How does a TC know what's happening with its BOH? Every TC I've ever worked for has one member on the BOH. That's how they know. The dangerous part is that appeals from BOH decisions usually go to the TC. If the TC is the BOH then how can they hear appeals from their own decisions? I think the best indicator of how political last year's decision was is when they complained about Sofia's restaurant getting so many citations. That's where the Republicans held most of their events. It's more important to them to protect someone who might give them a price break than it is to protect the public's health.. I'm glad this TC reversed the completely political dismantling of our independent BOH. The town worked very well and we were served very well for as long as I can remember by a non-political BOH.
Stan B January 24, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I agree. I wrote about this before. Every time I watched a TC meeting on cable, I could see how Shehady treated anyone who had an opinion that differed from his. During his year out of office, I also watched him busily typing on his computer and you could see Fernandez and Krauss looking at their wireless equipment to see what they had to say next. It was so obvious that Shehady was giving them their next lines. He should have looked for a job on Broadway as a line prompter.
BART FRAENKEL January 25, 2013 at 05:43 AM
Like I've said before, anyone speaking poorly of anyone else and not having the courage or integrity to identify themself is too insignificant to be concerned about.

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