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Public health district asking towns to pay more

The regional public health district — which is trying to transition from a grant-funded enterprise to a town-sustained district — will ask its 10 member towns to increase their payments by a total of $15,600 this year.

The Cooperative Public Health District’s oversight board, which contains representatives from the towns’ boards of health, voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the increases — which range from as low as $218 for Monroe to as high as $3,231 for Charlemont.

If the townspeople approve the increases at their annual meetings this spring, they will collectively be paying for half of the district’s $163,500 budget. Towns contributed 45 percent this year and 28 percent the year before that, the district’s inaugural year.

The health district works with local boards of health, concentrating on four main areas of service: housing and summer camp inspections, food safety inspections, septic maintenance and public health nursing. Towns can choose to buy all or some of those services.

The district pays for two staff positions. Public health nurse Lisa White holds walk-in clinics and administers flu shots, and regional health agent Glen Ayers preforms food safety, septic and summer camp inspections.

Health district leaders want to increase White’s time during flu season for the second straight year, from 20 hours a week to 30 hours. They also want to add a part-time health agent to assist with septic maintenance and pay for software work done to set up an online permitting system for towns. Those increases total $20,000.

Some towns may vote the health district money as its own warrant, but most will do so in a vote to approve the overall budget, said Phoebe Walker, director of community services for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. She has offered to meet with town officials if they have any questions.

The towns all pay different amounts into the district — in part because they buy different services, but mostly because the original prices were set based on how much they had paid in the past for similar services. Walker said that the district’s oversight board will be working on a new funding formula this spring that members hope will be fairer to all of the towns.

The board would like to see towns pay for 75 percent of the health district, and not depend on future grants, in 2016.

Most of the increases range from 6 percent to 21 percent. Shelburne’s allocation will nearly triple because that town paid only $500 to join the district this year on a trial basis.

The proposed town contributions (with increases) are as follows:

∎ Buckland: $13,544.98 (21 percent increase)

∎ Charlemont: $18,617 (21 percent)

∎ Conway: $4,972.97 (14.4 percent

∎ Deerfield: $19,109.89 (14.4 percent)

∎ Gill: $11,787.93 (15.5 percent)

∎ Hawley: $2,364.34 (21 percent)

∎ Monroe: $1,621.62 (15.5 percent)

∎ Heath: $6,930 (15.5 percent)

∎ Leyden: $2,475 (6.5 percent)

∎ Shelburne: $1,437.50 (187.5 percent)

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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