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Board of Health Changes Pass

Township Committee will absorb functions of formerly autonomous board.

Following a protracted and contentious discussion, the Township Committee passed the ordinance overhauling Springfield’s Board of Health on Tuesday, June 26. The vote was split across party lines, with the Committees three Republicans voting in favor and the two Democrats voting against.

With the vote, the Board of Health will be composed of the Township Committee members and two residents with expertise in public health. It replaces the seven-member autonomous board composed of volunteers that the township previously had in place.

The matter has been fiercely debated in since the changes were first proposed in May. The tensions boiled over at a packed Committee meeting that was frequently punctuated by applause and interjections from the crowd as well as flashes of emotions from the committee members themselves.

Prior to the public hearing on the ordinance, Township Administrator Anthony Cancro emphasized that the plan was his idea, and he put it in the context of other shared service agreements he had initiated while working for Springfield. 

Over a dozen residents expressed displeasure with the proposed changes during the public comment period, including former officials and members of the Board of Health. In his closing remarks, Mayor Ziad Shehady acknowledged the controversy but argued that in the long run the move would benefit the township. 

Bob Groder June 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Bart, I was at that meeting too and I can honestly say the publics best interests were not being served here. I dont agree with the Township committee's decision but i do respect its within their authority to make this change. I sure hope this doesnt come back to backfire and i dont mean come election time but I mean that noone gets sick due to faulty food handling by any particular restaurant in town. I also agree bart that both the people who attacked mr fernandez were wrong as were others but the mayor refused to answer most questions at they were asked which is how it is usually done at town hall meetings. the reason is because he had a prepared speech and his tone of voice was an angry one. this is not how any form of government should be run. I admit that mr. shahady was very respectful to me when i asked my question. I simply asked why both parties cant meet and try to work out their differences but was told they did try and werent able to do so. for this im sorry as i do wish both sides could have worked out their differences.
Bob Groder June 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM
additional comment... both sides were wrong to speak out and this means people in the audience as well. it was obvious that every single person who spoke was against the "reorganization" of the BOH because there is an alleged rift between the mayor and the head of the former BOH dr. shah is how it appears why the board of health got reorganized. by the way the mayor constanlty referred dr. shah as "mr shah." and this was disrespectful. I cant pretend to know what went on between the BOH & the TC as im new to this whole issue. i can only post a comment based on what i have seen going on the past few months.
Margaret Bandrowski June 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
The partisan vote last night reshaping the Board of Health was a sad spectacle. Not a single resident has ever spoken up in favor of the change during the past couple of months of meetings and the primary spokesperson for the change was Mr. Shehady, almost to the exclusion of Mr. Krauss and Mr. Fernandez. His lengthy, prepared "answer " last evening to the many legitimate questions posed since the ordinance was raised was a rehash of his previous evasions and by choosing again to refuse to answer questions as they came up, prominsing to respond to all at the end, never allowed the questioners to follow up (and far exceeded the 5 minutes he allowed each member of the public to speak). This is nothing more than another exercise in power and seizing ultimate control. The township is not being well-served. I urge all residents to attend the "New" Board's meetings - there should be only 2 in the next six months since the schedule has been reduced to 4 annual meetings down from at least 10 - and pay close attention to the proceedings.
Bob Groder June 27, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I plan on being there Margaret whenever possible as long as my schedule allows me to.
Marc Krauss June 27, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Ms. Bandrowski, it is truly sad that you are now misleading the residents regarding the Board of Health. The ordinance change reads as follows, “It (meaning the BOH) shall meet at least one each quarter during the calendar year and at such other times as the Board may determine or at the call of the Chairman.” Meeting once a quarter was the recommendation of Mr. Huber and as you clearly stated above; the BOH didn’t feel the need to meet every month in 2012. The BOH had previously decided to take month of July off. Regardless of how often the BOH meets, the Health Department is on the job providing the same contractual services and day-to-day operations it always has for the residents of Springfield just as any other department within the township.
Bob Groder June 27, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Mr. Krauss, I plan on trying to become more educated which is why im going to allow your board to show you can continue to service the residents of springfield. Like i said last night i didnt agree with the vote or decision but the democratic process did run its course so like it or not its time for the residents to try and work together with the springfield TC and hope the health of springfield residents comes 1st over a few dollars being saved potentially if we switch to a cheaper town to deliver health services to springfield. i wish you anf the whole TC much luck in this new endevour.
Shane Ronan June 27, 2012 at 08:36 PM
For everyone who is complaining that the committee did not answer questions as they were raised, the Township attorney specifically stated that he preferred to have questions wait till the end of the comment period. When the Mayor started to answer questions as they were raised, the attorney specifically asked him to wait till the end.
Princess Valiant June 28, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Sorely disappointed and disgusted. I beg everyone to be vigilant when patronizing any business in Springfield (really everywhere) that impacts your health. While you're at it, watch out for rabid critters.
Shane Ronan June 28, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Given that the same inspectors from the Department of Health will still be visiting Springfield establishments and conducting the same inspections as always, I fail to see why anyone would be any more concerned about eating in Springfield today then they were yesterday.
BART FRAENKEL June 28, 2012 at 03:58 AM
The bottom line is that the questions weren't answered. Waiting until the end to answer wasn't a recommendation that had a legal basis and almost seemed contrived. In addition, one of the people asked if the TC was writing down the questions so they knew what was asked but that question was ignored too. In 2010 when the sewer bill was the hot issue of the day, right after the November election, when Ziad (and I) lost, he decided to rescind the ordinance because (and I quote) 'so many people wanted it changed'. I asked him at that time where was the evidence or polling to show that people wanted it changed and I was told "they told me when I walked thru town". The was never a huge turnout at the TC meetings to express displeasure with it then but Tuesday night there was a very big turnout of people expressing their unhappiness and they were ignored.
BART FRAENKEL June 28, 2012 at 04:14 AM
It's unfair to think that any food establishment will be a problem because of what happened last night. The Westfield Dept of Health is still conducting the inspections, so no one should be concerned about potential violations not being addressed. The issue may be that at some future time if a merchant is asked to appear before a health board hearing, the people listening to the issues may not be the best to make decisions regarding the penalties that could be imposed. I was distressed to hear Mr Fernandez say that even after reading the list of violations accumulated by the merchant he knows, he was still confident there weren't any problems because he knew their reputation. I interpret that to mean there are certain violations that aren't as bad and only when the real bad things happen should merchants be brought to task. That kind of thinking concerns me greatly because its a recipe for disaster.
Bob Groder June 28, 2012 at 01:16 PM
i am disgusted with the way business is done in town. not much else needs to be said.
Bob Groder June 28, 2012 at 01:55 PM
.. but it will be said by me. i believe in a democracy but the governing body apparently doesnt. every single person who spoke among the 100 plus citizens were against the tc's move yet the tc just ignored everyone and yes bart is right the mayor didnt answer any direct questions and saved it for the end which was smart on his part. this way he can read from a prepared speech and yes some questions might get answered but no most questions were not answered. point of parlimentary procecure by doing it this way noone else is allowed to further comment because the public comment was only allowed because it legally has to be done. once the tc has its majority made up the public can speak for 100 years and nothing will change. this was not about money i agree with that statement. this part is so NOT right and not what the citizens of springfield wanted. i could run one day for council but since i have no affiliation i know i would have zero chance of winning. for the present time ill be a tax paying citzen in this town, country, state and great country while voicing my opinions at any town hall meetings in which i attend. i dont always disagree with the tc in fact for the most part i think they are doing a very good job but some key issues are highly sensitive to springfield citizens such as this issue and the turf field which i didnt agree with. i wish the TC best of luck and that no major problems or occurences of anyone getting sick in town due to faulty food handling.
Margaret Bandrowski June 28, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Mr. Krauss- Could you be specific in how I am misleading anyone regarding the BofH, particularly in regard to meeting schedules? The previous autonomous board met 10 to 12 times a year, and the new schedule is once a quarter (again, more than the single annual meeting originally proposed). The Board meetings and minutes show that meetings of several hours were held and there was quite a lot to review and discuss. I did not mislead anyone. Are you suggesting that as long as there is Dept. of Health on the job, there is no need to provide the oversight Mr. Shehady kept insisting is needed?
Marc Krauss June 29, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Ms. Bandrowski – You’ve failed to comprehend the language of the ordinance that was just passed and are passing on incorrect information to the residents of Springfield to say that there are only two BOH meetings remaining this year is disingenuous on your part. New Ordinance Language: “It (meaning the BOH) shall meet at least one each quarter during the calendar year and at such other times as the Board may determine or at the call of the Chairman.” This means a minimum of four times a year or as needed determined by the board or chairman. Also the Board of Health meetings are already scheduled 2012 with the cancelation of the July meeting by the previous BOH. Since you pointed out that they did cancel a couple of meetings this year, they failed to comprehend previous ordinance as written; Old Ordinance Language : “It (meaning the BOH) shall meet regularly at least once a month and at such other times as the Board may determine or at the call of the Chairman.” This means they had to meet a least once a month or more in which they failed to follow by holding less than the mandated 12 meetings. The Health Department is responsible for the day-to-day operations regardless of how many meetings are held by the BOH. The residents can rest assured that there is no loss of public health services. Are you suggesting that there is a diminished loss of health services performed by the Health Department based on the number of monthly BOH meetings?
BART FRAENKEL June 29, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Marc, unless there's a new method of math being used, meeting once a quarter compared to once a month means there will be 4 meetings compared to 12 based on the new ordinance. The call for other meetings as necessary remains the same, so what in fact is incorrect, since we are now halfway thru the year? I do, however, agree with you that with the Westfield Dept. of Health still conducting inspections, no one should be concerned about the safety and sanitary conditions of any food establishment in Springfield. If and when Westfield is no longer used, we will have to see what occurs thereafter.
Bob Groder June 29, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Marc thank you for clearing this up. While i would prefer the meet more than 4 times a yr ( once per tr minimum as it is now written) i assume logic dictates if there is any major health problem that needs to be addressed u will setup an emergency meeting and only if need be. i also agree with what bart said that the westfield dept. of health is on the job doing inspections. all i worry about is if we do change to a cheaper option please research it to make sure the springfield residents safety and health are never at risk. the old addage goes... " you get what you pay for" "penny wise pound foolish" etc. i accept the final decision has been made now i just am hoping nothing changes that will hurt the well being and health of the springfield township citizens. thank you for your clear explanation. bob
Margaret Bandrowski July 02, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I do not believe I misled anyone, as Mr. Fraenkel and Mr. Groder pointed out, and I do not for a minute believe the Westfield Dept of Health will be anything less than diligent and that the health of our residents will continue to be guarded by them. I do question the "oversight" the new Board will be providing with only 2 meetings (barring unusual circumstances) and I continue to urge all interested residents to attend any meetings held by the new Board, whenever they are scheduled. Are you indicating that the new Board will hold meetings as scheduled by the previous Board, i.e. monthly except for July and not only once in the third quartyer and once in the fourth quarter (as "quarterly would indicate)?
BART FRAENKEL July 02, 2012 at 04:57 PM
This issue will not go away and Mr. Krauss and Mr. Fernandez can thank the mayor for making it a focal point in the November election. All 3 of them voted to retract the Sewer Bill Ordinance because they said the majority of public told them it was wrong. However, not one time did a large group of residents ever come to a TC meeting to express their displeasure with it. But a very large group of people, from both political parties, came to express their unhappiness with the disbanding/reorganizing of the Board of Health, but they were ignored. The residents who came were not only ignored in regard to how the TC ultimately voted, but they were ignored when approaching the TC to express their opinions and ask questions about the ordinance, during the open public portion of the ordinance reading. Time after time, question after question, the TC and in particular the mayor, refused to answer the questions, claiming that all questions would be answered by the individual statements made by each TC member, prior to the vote. WRONG. Wrong on two things. First, all the questions were not answered, plain and simple. Second, part of the democratic process is to have our elected officials explain their reasoning and rationale behind their decisions and to explain and answer questions, during the time allotted. Politics aside, the mayor embarrassed himself by his behavior toward certain residents who spoke and to the community as a whole with his silence.
Bob Groder July 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
note to both bart & margaret: i see 1 problem here and unfortunately this is how politics is perceived by many average citizens. ( me being included) until irene came and desitated the town and my basement i never cared or had any interest in township committe meetings. it took devistation to get me involved. now that i am involved by attending i am starting to feel that my vote doesnt count. we had aprox 100 people at the meeting on june 26 most of which were opposed to the changes being proposed but the tc pretty much ignored the residents wishes as the vote went the way it did upon the introduction of the ordinance a few weeks earlier. this was a done deal BEFORE we walked in the room and every single person in the room knows this. many people dont have an understanding of town politics and unfortunately too many people are too busy to care. they only come out once its too late. how do we change this negative attitude i hear around town? im willing to do my part but feel its a losing battle. already in the calendar year 2012 we had this issue and 1 other issue go against what the seniors and many older citizens like me who arent seniors wanted. i start to feel you cant win at city hall and want this negative attitude to change. im willing to do my part within reason.
BART FRAENKEL July 02, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Bob, other then attending TC meetings to express yourself, the only other thing to do is to vote for the person or persons you feel will best represent your opinions. The 3 Republicans have had their chance but have shown a total disregard for the opinions of the majority of the residents. They seem to feel they know better then anyone else, what to do and don't need outside input. Like I've said for a while, that's a maturity issue and it starts at the top.
Bob Groder July 02, 2012 at 05:12 PM
bart while i agree on 95% of what u said i disagree on 1 point. the mayor did explain why its good in his opinion to have the BOH changed to the new format even if we dont agreew with it he did speak with a long lecture on its usefulness.. HOWEVER he didnt answer many of the questions posed by the citizens who attended the meeting and he did ignore just about everyone. he did answer my quesution about trying to meet and work things out. he had said they did try but to no avail. i cant pretend to say i know what went on leading up to this bill being changed. bottom line im not happy with whats going on in town right now but ill reserve how i feel to pass judgement come november as for now since this passed im giving the TC the benefit of the doubt they know what they are doing. if they dont then come november ill change my thought process come election day. like in a sporting event a team has to win and a team has to lose. right now we are on the losing end of this vote but this can change rather quickly so dont despair.
Bob Groder July 02, 2012 at 05:22 PM
bart i agree that the citizens have been ignored here for the most part. ill try and stay active as much as i can. i dont know if its a maturity issue as i dont attack any indivudual with comments like that unless they treat me the same way. they have all been respectful to me thus far so i cant say i undertsand what goes on in town. i dont know any of the tc well enough to say that, I know you have history with them so of course u can say how u feel and could be right if you know facts i dont. I will state my opinion here which is this appears to be a power thing among party lines which i despise. no offense to EITHER party. this does go on in trenton and dc. i have no clue why we got ignored last week but come november hopefully the citizens will make the right decisions to help whats good for all citizens of springfield nj and not just 1 political party. i refuse to be part of party politics. i feel very strongly about this and i know most wont agree with me. 1 thing to both sides of the party lines.. WE ALL LIVE HERE AND ALL HAVE TO GET ALONG WITH ONE ANOTHER. i know im unrealistic but why cant everyone get along and do whats right for everyone and not just along party lines?
Marc Krauss July 03, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Ms. Bandrowski, You are again misleading the resident by stating that there are only two meetings left in the year with your lack of comprehension of the new ordinance. There is a difference in between “quarterly” and “at least quarterly” as the new ordinance states; therefore there can be one, two or three meetings each quarter at a minimum. If the ordinance stated quarterly, which it does not, then there would only be one meeting each quarter. Also there are curently five BOH meetings for the remainder of year since the schedule was already published by the previous board and the new board hasn’t convened yet. To say there is only 2 meetings left in the year is disingenuous to say at the least. As far as oversight, oversight is not limited to just meeting once, twice a month or even quarterly as any current or previous member of the township committee will tell you. Oversight is accomplished through continuous and ongoing communication with the township administrator, department heads or key employees for all aspects of town governance to include the Health Department.
Margaret Bandrowski July 05, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Bob- I can only say that when Mr. Keffer was in office, every effort was made to listen to every opinion, respectfully, and to consider alternate points of view. Obviously this is not the case this year. Civility and respect for any one wishing to comment or question must be restored; that is our aim in running for township committee. And I continue to urge every resident to attend the meetings, watch them on TV, and come out to let committee memebers know what they think. The municipal courtroom should be filled at every meeting and everyone should be able to say what they want to say - and they should be heard with respect and responded to appropriately. I have heard many residents say they have been afraid to address the committee because of the way any disagreement is received. If people do not vote, they lose the right to complain and if people do not speak up it gives too much power to those whose interest is in power rather than governing with the consent of those governed.
Bob Groder July 05, 2012 at 04:49 PM
well said margaret
Shane Ronan July 05, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I have to disagree with your statements about Mr. Keffer's tenure. While he may have let everyone speak, in my opinion rarely had an answer for their questions and simply shrugged his shoulders a lot, deferring most questions to the township attorney. What the town needs is strong leadership. And as happens with most strong leaders, there are going to be people who disagree with them. There wasn't a massive turnout against the change to the make up of the Board of Health, just like the wasn't a massive turn out for the turf field (although there were more people there for the turf field). Largely because the change is not material to most peoples lives and really has no effect on their safety or well being.
Bob Groder July 05, 2012 at 10:53 PM
shane i disagree with you there certainly a very good turnout who made that meeting compared to times when 8 people show up. thats just an inaccurate statement to say it wasnt massive. i didnt count the # but id say at least 75 people were there that night. if you compare it to the turf field vote for the people who were for it its not massive but when you compare it to a normal meeting that turnout was quite impressive. i also refuse to accept your statement that no effect on sometimes health being effected. this change has just happened. before anyone (including myself) can pass judgement this needs to have time to settle and see what happens in town. i even agreed once the change was made im giving it a pass to see how it pans out but to say noone is effected is just innacurate. the change just happened 9 days ago. the more i see you speak out which is your right the more i see you always taking the site of the current administration and they appear to do no wrong in your eyes. you were in that room and of the people who did get up to speak not a single person wanted the change to be made same with the senior center. i was kind of surprised that you didnt speak out in favor of the change. this was all about a power play and im glad im not in politics as i want nothing to do with it. ill be there as a tax paying concerned citizen as to how this town is being run.
Bob Groder July 05, 2012 at 10:53 PM
continuation of previous comment.... i dont agree with a word you said shane BUT i respect every word you said as thats what makes this country what it is which is to say we have the freedoms to speak out and agree or disagree with 1 another.
Bob Groder July 05, 2012 at 10:56 PM
1 other point shane. there is a big difference from being a strong leader and running a town or business like as a boss without listening to input from the very same people who elected the governing body. they heard the people speak but totally ignored the will of the people who showed up that evening. thats not being a leader if you ask me. we elect these officials to help everyone and not just the business owners in town.

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