Health inspector funding restored after 4 weeks without

  • The offices at the Greenfield Health Department sit mostly empty at the Sanderson Street building following the departure of its health inspectors. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 11:31:58 PM

GREENFIELD — After a month without a single health inspector in the city, the City Council Wednesday night decided to fund the health and building inspections departments sufficiently to hire new inspectors.

Except for a single ‘nay’ vote from At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass, the funding restoration was unanimous, reversing a close negative vote last month.

The vote came as the council was under increased community and political pressure that has built in recent weeks. Now the Health Department will receive about $19,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, and the Building Inspection Department will receive about $9,500.

During a debate by the councilors, Mass pointed to mismanagement by the Mayor’s Office for the lack of health inspectors.

“We could find a million dollars to that department, but we can’t tell the mayor how to spend the money in the department,” Mass said. 

Councilor Sheila Gilmour elicited a loud round of applause and a standing ovation from Board of Health Chairman Steve Adam, when she said, “If you don’t vote for this you need to resign because you’re not taking care of the city.” Gilmour is the councilor who brought the inspector funding request back before the council after it was defeated in November. The inspection’s budget was trimmed in last year’s budget writing, which led to a cascading series of resignations by inspectors who said the resulting workload was too great.

Prior to the council’s debate over the inspections, a handful of residents advocated funding the Health Department.

Board of Health Chairman Steve Adam pleaded, as he has before in recent weeks, for the department to be fully funded.

“With no health inspectors, Greenfield is unable to respond to any health issues,” said Adam, citing 19 new complains with no action being taken.

Gina Campbell, the vice president of clinical operations at Valley Medical Group and a registered nurse of about 25 years, said she’s seen while working in the field how vital it is to have health inspectors.

“Having no health department is absolutely a crime,” Campbell said.

Former Board of Health member of 20 years and former Chairwoman Janina Thayer said she typically doesn’t dip into political affairs of the city, “however I feel the politics have superseded the common good.”

She encouraged the council to fully fund the department for the remainder of the fiscal year, but also to lock in money for the upcoming fiscal year.

Earlier in the week, the Mayor’s Office delivered detailed costs of how much it will take to fund health inspections. There were prices through June 30, and for next fiscal year.

The council was told it needed to give the Health Department about $5,000, $10,000 or $19,000 to pay for different levels of adequate staffing for the remainder of the year. Any of these values would be in addition to the $43,000 left in the department’s budget.

The department currently has enough money to hire a health director, but the Mayor’s Office has said it has been challenged to hire given the instability in the funding of the department. Mayor William Martin said one qualified applicant is awaiting a decision.

About 80 percent of establishments that serve food in Greenfield will be overdue a health inspection by 2019, according to data from the Health Department.

The financing also took up a short-staffed building inspections department, which has been less talked about by public officials, but also on the table.

It will cost $9,500 to sufficiently fund for the building inspections, Smith said.

The mayor has discussed the potential of combining the health and building inspection departments into a city-wide inspections department, possibly as soon as next year.


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