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Residents Object to Proposed Board of Health Changes

Residents argue for continuing the board of health as an autonomous body.

While the future of the Health Board won't be decided on until June 26, Springfield residents gathered at the June 12  meeting to make made their feelings on the proposed changes known. 

Former officials, political candidates, board of health members and residents expressed dismay at the changes under consideration for the board during the meeting’s public comment section. Under the proposed changes, the board, currently composed of seven volunteers appointed by the , would be replaced by a board of health made up of Township Committee members and two residents with public health backgrounds.

Former Township Committee member and current Democratic candidate for the committee David Barnett spoke first. A former liaison to the Board of Health, Barnett was troubled at the possibility of political influence on health matters if the Township Committee—an elected body he described as “inherently political”— absorbed the board.

“By changing the board, you potentially create a conflict of interest,” Barnett said. In addition, he worried that the change would erode the public’s trust in the safety of township institutions, saying that lax health enforcement for restaurants “diminishes the public’s faith in businesses in town.”

Barnett’s running mate Margaret Bandrowski characterized the move as stemming from conflict with township Mayor Ziad Shehady.

“They disagree with you and it’s off with their heads,” Bandrowski said. 

Bandrowski called the original plan to have the reconfigured board meet only once a year “astonishingly irresponsible.” Referring to Shehady’s explanation that the plan would create efficiencies and streamlined processes, Bandrowski questioned his priorities.

“What price are you putting on the health of residents,” Bandrowski asked.

Bruce Bergen, former attorney both for the Township Committee and the Board of Health, pointed at incidents and reports he said showed Shehady pressuring the board of health to not enforce rules. Officials have denied they have encouraged lax enforcement. In Shehady said the board takes too punitive an approach towards code enforcement and that he'd prefer the health department inspectors make on-site recommendations and instructions instead of bringing the businesses before the health board.

April Forys, a registered nurse and a current member of the board of health encouraged members of the public to attend the June 13 Board of Health meeting so they could "see what they may lose."

After Shehady closed the public comments to begin the Committee’s closed executive session, Democratic board members Rich Huber and David Amlen indicated they supported keeping the Board of Health as an autonomous body.

“As the liaison to the Board of Health, I would be very disappointed if the committee voted to disband it,” Amlen said.

a June 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
bottom line to citizens: use common sense ... if a place looks dirty on the inside of the restaurant it probably is in the kitchen where we cant see it. dont do business if you are suspicious of any food establishment. we still can make our own choices. im going to be extremely careful where or if i dine in springfield if the board of health is disbanded so if enough citizens think like this maybe ziad will realize his PRO BUSINESS idea ic actually going to have an adverse effect.
Shane Ronan June 16, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Why does everyone keep saying that they intend to disband the Board of Health? Is this a scare tactic? Because it's clearly not true. The proposal on the table is to move from an autonomous Board of Health made up of members of the township, to a Board of Health made up of the members of the Township Committee as well as two members of the township (and two alternates.) Further, any discussion about switching Health Departments are about reducing expenses, not services. The services provided by the Health Department are laid out in STATE law. Did you know that many of the township committee members have significant experience in food handling safety and policy? In some cases far more experience then the current members of the Board of Health. I encourage people to educate themselves on the FACTS, rather then the partisan political fear mongering that is happening here.
johns June 16, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Margaret do you really believe that a 2 DAY closing is "hardly a slap on the wrist?" As a small business owner, though completely different then food service. I can tell you that 2 DAYS of closing is a major slap. Any business that loses 2 days of sales can devastate a business during this economic recession. In this business climate, we are lucky to just be able to pay our bills. Bills that keep going up, as our sales keep going down. A business owner would still have to pay is employees for that week and every other fixed expense, in today's world economically it could mean life and death to a business. 2 days of lost sales, would KILL my business and any other small business owner. I wonder if you truly understand what this recession is doing to businesses across our country. I feel like you are not in touch with the seriousness of the economy and its impact to the average citizen. I am not sure where you work or what you do for a living, but imagine you or friends that you work with losing jobs, because your boss was forced to close his or her business for 2 days. If you think that could not happen, you are living in a different world then most.
BART FRAENKEL June 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
They want to disband the CURRENT board of health, is that better? The people appointed to it are not political people and some were appointed by the current TC majority. The problem is that the mayor doesn't like anyone making statements that oppose his views, which they have done, regardless of the validity. By replacing the members with the TC, apparently none of whom have any health background or experience, means that there will not be an independent (autonomous) group providing oversight, and the newly appointed will know their positions will last as long as they continue to agree with the TC. Disbanding the current BOH and possibly changing Dept. of Health from Westfield is clearly political in nature, and is using the pretense of cost savings and erroneous statements like lack of communication as an excuse. How can the mayor and deput mayor, who both served as liasons for the TC to the BOH, and who missed many of their meetings complain about a lack of communication when they were the people tasked with maintaining communication between the 2 groups? Hypocracy at its finest!
Bruno June 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I happen to be one of the "chorus of speakers" who voiced my opinions at the last township hearing in favor of keeping the current board autonomous. I have no political agenda, and I have had issues with virtually every TC that has been in power. I am just your average every day resident who works for a living and pays taxes. I don't dispute the fact that any community board has its own political appointees. Some community boards, for instance the Improvement District program, has no community representation on it at all, but maybe for one resident that I recall from 2 years ago. Other than that, it is simply merchants and a TC rep. Anyway, my point is this. In regards to the BOH. Irregardless of the fact that there is politics everywhere, wouldn't it simply be better to have community represenetatives who are volunteers on a board that serve the public health, versus it being solely controlled by the local govt.? Doesn't community involvement to some degree reflect a system of checks and balances? The mere fact that the TC wants to see the current board go, and considering for example the conflict of interest issue which happened at this past March meeting of the BOH when the Deputy Mayor came to promote his friend - a major food retailer in town - and asking them to give him a break...doesn't that also raise an eyebrow for you?
Anthony Fannelli June 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Question If Springfield has 92 food establishments, and we have a current Bd of Health WHY is Westfield inspecting our restaurants? Why is the Springifleld BD of H not inspecting them.
Anthony Fannelli June 17, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Bart when you were Mayor you appointed whomever you wanted as township attorney...OOPS no you didnt YOU HAD to appoint Bruce Bergen becuz he was the DEMS BOSS. Interesting that he was township attorney, and BD of H attorney also, nice appointment if you have the political connections.
BART FRAENKEL June 17, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Anthony Fannelli, you're only telling 1/2 the story, alot like Ziad does. Bruce Bergen was in fact the township attorney both times I was mayor, however the position was open and advertised for other attornies to respond. In addition, we changed some of the requirements in order to enable more people to respond and to try and get the best people possible. From the people who did respond both years, Mr. Bergen was absolutely the best qualified. You may not like him personally or professionally, however choosing anyone else who applied for the position would have been a terrible injustice to the town. Mr. Shehady had every opportunity to recommend someone for the position because he knew I was open to change. The attorney I asked to apply for the position works as the township attorney for another town and works the same nights, so he couldn't do it. You should get your information straight before making your statement. As for the board of health, and the Westfield Dept of Health, Westfield does the actual inspecting on a daily basis, and the board of health is an advisory board. They listens to certain issues (once a month) that may arise from incidents reported by the Health Dept. and have the authority to impose penalties. That's why an autonomous board, like we currently have, rather then the TC members taking over, should not change.
MJ Cullen June 17, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Shane, Here is the relationship between a coyote attack and Millburn Animal Control from your question above. In July 2011, a gentleman was attacked by a coyote on Henshaw Avenue while protecting his dog. The man received 70+ stitches and preliminary rabies treatment. Any coyote that bites a domestic pet or human is considered to be suspected of having rabies and could bite others. Human death to rabies is rare due to normally very aggressive preventative measures; the last death in NJ was in Summit, in the same month. Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Faye Sorhage, the NJ Public Health veterinarians, have made it clear that a search should have been started for the coyote immediately. On a phone call with Committeeman Jerry Fernandez, the veterinarians also made it clear that this is not a job for police, unless the police have been trained as Animal Control Officers. Furthermore, the veterinarians said that by law, the Health Officer should be involved. In this situation, a committee member said that "coyotes don't exist in Springfield", and no further action was taken. This is the danger in allowing the Township Committee to make policy; if problems happen, there is the potential to hide informaton based on the TC's agenda. Here's a link to one of the letters the BOH sent with further information from those veterinarians: http://tinyurl.com/ACProblems2. Type or copy the url into the internet address line and click Enter.
Margaret Bandrowski June 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I have been away from the internet for a few days and am encouraged to see that many other residents have responded to the half-truths and misinformation that has been provided by the mayor regarding this issue. Please, all of you, even those who support the mayor;s position, come out to the June 26 meeting. The mayor's comments on Facebook regarding the "grilling" of the business owner and the procedure which resulted in the "penalty" which he incurs only if he is again found in violation indicates precisely why the political TC should NOT be in control of the Board of Health. The business owner's attitude to the Board and the Dept of Health was arrogant, defiant and very troubling. It was ther Board of Health itself which imposed the penalty, not the Dpt. of Health, so the idea that a hearing was not needed was procedurally incorrect. A political majority on th TC which is business-centered at the expense of the residents well-being is frightening to contemplate. We be business friendly and work with the businesses to have the appropriate priorities but not at the cost of lowering standards and incurring risks. was not necessary is totally incorrect as far as procedure goes.
Shane Ronan June 18, 2012 at 09:20 PM
If the Dept of Health did not feel the need to apply a penalty against the business owner, why was it necessary for the Board of Health to step in and apply a penalty?
BART FRAENKEL June 18, 2012 at 09:42 PM
The Westfield Dept of Health recommended a 24 month period during which if less then a satisfactory inspection resulted, the business would incur a penalty of 2 days being closed. The board of health reduced the period from 24 months to 18 months, since its their responsibility to impose the guidelines.
Shane Ronan June 18, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I still don't understand why it is necessary to have two organizations that duplicate each others effort. Why drag the business owner through additional drama?
MJ Cullen June 18, 2012 at 10:01 PM
The Health Dept cannot impose penalties. Only the BOH can impose penalties. The power of the BOH is what motivated the restaurant to correct their violations and become compliant. The restaurant was told by the Health Dept HOW to become compliant after their first inspection in March. The restaurant chose not to correct their violations until June 4th and did not receive their sign off from the Health Department until June 13th. What likely motivated them was that they would have to appear before the BOH on June 13th. The BOH's only penalty was to advise them that they would be closed down for two days, if Sofia's puts the public's health at risk within the next 18 months. The fines that the restaurant needed to pay were to the town for not having a Township license and for the cost of being re-inspected again. There was no fine from the BOH for their violations. If the TC assumes the role of the BOH, and does not penalize restaurants, then restaurants would have no motivation to comply, and would face no penalty for risking public health.
Margaret Bandrowski June 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Shane- Efforts are not duplicated. Think of it roughly as the Dept Health providing investigation and urging businesses to comply and the Board as the Executive/Judicial branch, imposing penalties which may be suggested by the Dept of Health when necessary. Hearings are rather rare and held only when the business has had mutiple, continous serious violations and, as in the last two cases, failed to work with the inspector and correct the violations over 3 months during which follow up inspections are conducted. If you had attended the hearing last week, for example, and had an opportunity to read the reports and evaluate the business owner's response to the board, it would have been clear. It was disturbing, as was Mr. Shehady's interpretation of and mis-statements about what was happening. He also seemed to misunderstand the different functions of the Board and the Dept. of Health. That is of concern when you consider what he is proposing.
Shane Ronan June 20, 2012 at 05:15 PM
If there was a Coyote attack in July of 2011, why is the only information posted about it, a single email from Mr. Shah to Mr. Cancro from April of 2012. It seems that if there was such a large public health concern that this would have been brought to the towns attention much sooner. What stopped the current members of the Board of Health from reaching out to the community?
Shane Ronan June 20, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Everyone is assuming that the TC as the BOH would impose no penalties on egregious offenders or those that knowingly put the health of the public at risk. The current process is over burdensome to businesses and runs counter to the goals of the ELECTED township government.
MJ Cullen June 20, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Past history with the township committee's request for the BOH to go lightly with some businesses and ignore violations sets an expectation that they would do the same thing in the future on their own. The current process is NOT overburdensome. One or two inspections a year is not being overburdensome if the establishments are complying with state law. It is only burdensome if you are committing violations on an ongoing basis that require your presence before the Board. As I've written before, 92 establishments, only 5 Board hearings in the last 5 years. That is NOT overburdensome. Both parties need to come together and create a workable relationship that contains structured avenues of communication. The township committee needs to set expectations for the BOH and provide them with all of the necessary information to do their jobs. The BOH should bring all their actions and minutes to the Township Committee so they are up to date on activities. It is not necessary to give up the BOH in its current form if both parties keep open minds and leave politics out of it.
BART FRAENKEL June 20, 2012 at 11:18 PM
It's the township administrators responsibility, as well as the members of the governing body to disseminate information to the public. The BOH did their job properly in advising Mr. Cancro. As for the TC members determining penalties for violators of health codes, how can anyone believe they will do the properly when the Deputy Mayor tried to speak on behalf of one of the retailers brought before the BOH, and the mayor has acted in such a biased manner with the restaurant?
Shane Ronan June 20, 2012 at 11:52 PM
So it's the Township Administrators fault that the information wasn't made public, not the BOH. Seems like everyone is to blame except the BOH, how convenient. Further, I see nothing wrong with the Deputy Mayor speaking on behalf of a local retailer, especially one he's worked with for MANY years. I'd prefer that we work closely with the businesses in town on health issues then taking punitive approaches. The fact is, businesses that make people sick don't stay in business for very long, so it's not in anyone's best interest for any safety issues to go unresolved, but there are MANY ways to resolve them.
Keepboh Autonomous June 21, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Shane, The coyote attack coincided with changing of the Animal Control to Millburn. The contract was not reviewed by BOH or the Health Officer, and only found out after the fact, despite state law that they must review the contract. This contract is NOT similar as DPW and police now do things Animal Control used to. Further, guidelines from the state are not being met anymore, like no patrolling or rabies investigations. The BOH held a special meeting in Aug 2011 The BOH sent many to the TC about their concerns, including: http://tinyurl.com/ACProblems1 Other issues included taking 6 months to send reports to the HO of suspected rabid animals, and improperly handling them. For example, at the school, a stray cat was relocated when should have been taken. No names were taken of kids who had contact. In another situation, a resident called about a feral cat she had trapped, and the police told her to dispose it herself. Feral casts are a vector for spreading rabies. The BOH asked their liaison, Jerry Fernandez for help with the situation and he said he would address. It is mentioned in both the August and September 2011 Meeting Minutes. Because the BOH was concerned, they reached out to the NJ Public Health Veterinarian (NJPHV). Here is one of those e-mails: http://tinyurl.com/ACProblems4 A second time, they sent this E-mail after contacting Millburn, who admitted their service in Springfield had not been the best. http://tinyurl.com/ACProblems3 ‘cont
Keepboh Autonomous June 21, 2012 at 12:55 AM
‘cont to Shane The 2012 liaison raised the issue, but was told everything was OK, despite the numerous documented problems. Here's a chart showing incidents: http://tinyurl.com/ACProblems2 Since the problem wasn’t getting fixed, the liaison suggested writing Mr. Cancro explaining everything. . The Mayor then asked the BOH to stop discussing Animal Control issues and told the Health Officer to stay out of Animal Control, even though by law, and stated by the NJPHV, the Health Officer must be very involved. When the BOH shared what the NJPHV said, the Mayor discounted it, saying it was only the NJPHV’s opinion, whereas the Mayor is certain they are meeting the law. The Mayor acknowledged that the guidance document from the state, Essential Elements of Animal Control (EEAC), is not the law, which has even lower standards. The BOH did not believe it meets any of these, and that any change in service should be discussed publicly over multiple meetings, not quickly at one TC. The Mayor warned they were undermining the TC by discussing it, and threatened to dissolve them. The BOH felt that ethically it was important to make the public aware of how the TC was increasing risks to health/safety. This is why it took so long, and why a BOH is so important; to hold the TC accountable for short term cost reductions that have long term health ramifications, particularly since some of them who work in medical professions have more training on ethics, cost, and quality.
Shane Ronan June 21, 2012 at 01:01 AM
If the TC is purposefully subverting the law, I suggest you address these issues in a court of law, rather then in the court of public opinion and local politics. Beyond that you are simply engaging in a smear campaign simply because you don't agree with the decisions being made by the current administration. Exactly what you are accusing them of doing. Remember, the TC is publicly elected, the BOH is not.
Franka June 21, 2012 at 02:31 AM
What was the final result of the merchant that the deputy mayor testifyed for? Did he pass his last inspection?
MJ Cullen June 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Please read the notes above which explain the answer to your question. The bottom line is yes.
MJ Cullen June 21, 2012 at 12:19 PM
So it's okay to mitigate on behalf of the business and wait until people get sick to resolve the health and safety issues? The Health Dept tried to work with the establisment, but the owner threw her out of the restaurant. As this was ongoing over several months, the Health Dept and BOH had no choice but to be punitive. Also, the business had no license so they were also violating township law. You don't seem to be looking at the facts. Please read through all the information before responding with emotional comments that distort the issue..
Keepboh Autonomous June 21, 2012 at 01:22 PM
EDITED: Regarding the establishment referenced with the Deputy Mayor (March) the outcome was actually very good and shows the benefit of the BOH. They had a hearing because of having 3 Conditionally Satisfactory inspections, each spaced a month apart. Their top management got involved and hired a consultant. The consultant came in, did training, and cleaned up the place. Their management was so impressed that they paid the consultant to clean up their other operations that are outside Springfield, therefore helping the health of people outside Springfield as well too. Clearly that owner saw some benefit which is why he invested the money. The "punishment" the merchant received is that will face closure IF they are Conditionally Satisfactory in the next 12 months. If they remain Satisfactory, there is no closure, which is why it is hard to call it a punishment. No fines were imposed, but they have to pay a fee for each reinspection.
johns June 21, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I reached out to the deputy mayor on this issue. It is my understanding that MJ CULLEN, you seem wrong on the merchant that the deputy mayor testified for and the merchant that threw out the Health Officer. Seems that he testified in an open public meeting, that he knew was recorded. He did not do anything sneaky or covert. He did not ask for any favors to be handed to the merchant. He asked to work together with the merchant before forcing closure or hefty fines. He explained that he knew the owner, through his business and knew that the merchant would comply. That the merchant had an impeccable reputation in the food service industry and has been in the business for many years. He felt comfortable knowing the individual, that he would accomplish the goal of complying, and that if he was not positive or did not know the individual he would not have testified. Seems that he was correct. My understanding is that the Health Official returned in one week, and the merchant had hired a food trainer. According to the deputy mayor, the merchant had exceeded the health departments expectations, and became the gold standard for all businesses in Springfield. He felt that this saved jobs in our town, that perhaps if the merchant was forced to close that jobs would have been lost. He also said he was certified in safe serve and had a good understanding of the violations. That they could be corrected easily. The merchant had fired previous management that did nt do their job.
BART FRAENKEL June 21, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Shane, even though I disagree with just about everything you say about the mayor, at least your posts are respectful and coherant, unlike those of some others. Since you often ask questions, I have one for you. You and others have said the mayor is trying to make Springfield business friendly with his approach. My question is why he wasn't as willing with Dobbs Auto Body, who for many years has been one of a number of tow operators allowed to tow in Springfield. The owner of Dobbs, is a staunch Repbulican, so his displeasure with them certainly can't be politically motivated, even though they have been a responsible, and active business in Springfield and have donated money and services to the township numerous times. So why is the mayor and his TC followers so intent on making things difficult for Dobbs?
Shane Ronan June 22, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Bart, I'm not sure, but I'll ask him. I'm not aware of any issue regarding Dobbs.

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