Springfield officials will decide the future of the Board of Health tonight.
The Board, presently composed of seven residents appointed by the , meets monthly and steers the Township’s health and safety regulations. Along with the Township Committee, it is one of two governmental bodies in Springfield that can pass ordinances. The Springfield Township Committee is to the township’s board of health. Under the proposed change to township ordinance, which is up for final vote tonight, that configuration would be replaced by a board of health made up of the Township Committee members and two residents with expertise in public health.
While some officials tout the move as a cost-saving effort, current members of the board of health and township observers characterize the proposed changes as a power grab that disregards public health and safety.
The matter has been fiercely debated in meetings, print and online publications and social media since the changes were first proposed in May. Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady devoted considerable space to criticism of the present board in his . In his , Board of Health chair Samir Shah said that Shehady was not telling the entire story. implored the Committee to retain the Board of Health as is.
The issue spilled over onto Facebook when Shehady, while attending the Board of Health’s June meeting, put up a Facebook message accusing the board of “unnecessarily giving small-business Sofia's Restaurant a hard time.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the current Board of Health have put up lawn signs throughout Springfield calling for residents to help retain the autonomous board.
Democrats Rich Huber and David Amlen have publicly stated their intention to vote in favor of the autonomous volunteer board. Nonetheless, if the three Republicans on the Committee vote together to change the board, the ordinance will pass and the Committee would absorb the functions of the Board of Health.