BOARD OF HEALTH
January 12, 2006
The regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board of Health of the Township of Mahwah, held at the Municipal Offices, 475 Corporate Drive, Mahwah, New Jersey, was called to order at 8:00 PM by President, Wendy DeSilva. The Opening Statement was read according to the Sunshine Law and was followed by Roll Call.
PRESENT: Mrs. DeSilva
ABSENT: Mrs. Tracey
PROFESSIONALS: Mr. Mason, Attorney
Mr. Hopper, Health Officer
Mrs. Homler, REHS
Mrs. Campbell, Secretary
Ms. Kate McDougall, RN
Ms. Joanne Wendolowski, RN
APPROVAL OF REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
Moved by Mr. Wasson and, seconded by Mr. Harris and, agreed by all present, the minutes of the meeting of December 1, 2005 were approved.
APPROVAL OF HEALTH ACTIVITIES REPORT
Moved by Mrs. Spiech and, seconded by Mr. Ackerman, that the Health Activities Report be approved.
Mrs. Spiech commented that there were approximately 2 births for every death recorded in the township during 2005. Mr. Hopper noted that we have a very young population in Mahwah.
Mrs. DeSilva asked Mr. Ostrow to provide further details on an outbreak of food-borne illness. Mr. Ostrow explained that the Health and Safety Director at Ramapo College had contacted us for help in resolving an outbreak of illness which they suspected was related to a food concession on campus. Both Mr. Ostrow and Mrs. Homler responded and spent several hours inspecting the food service areas, as well as
interviewing the nurses, students, and food service personnel. Stool samples were requested from the two latter groups, but only three were obtained. The samples are being tested for shigella, salmonella and viruses but the results have not yet been returned. The inspectors concluded that the outbreak was probably viral in nature, and related to the salad bar. Some recommendations were made, including performing a complete scrub down of the facility. The timing for this maintenance was optimal as most of the students had gone home for the winter recess.
Mr. Wasson asked for details on the summonses that were issued to It’s a Wonderful Bagel. Mr. Hopper stated that Mrs. Homler had performed these inspections; on re-inspection, she found that the establishment had not remedied any of the violations for which they had originally been cited.
Mr. Ackerman noted Mr. Ostrow’s attendance at a Watershed Committee meeting and asked if he had any new information to share. Mr. Ostrow reported that United Water of New York has requested approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation (New York’s version of the DEP) to permanently lower the level of Potake Pond in Ringwood.
Presently, when the flow of the Ramapo River falls below 8 million gallons, United Water must cease pumping from their well fields north of the Jersey state line. Lowering Potake Pond augments the flow of the River, artificially inflating its flow calculation. (This has been done temporarily in the past during drought and low flow conditions.) Permanently lowering the Pond however, will mask the true flow and condition of the River and Aquifer while permitting United Water New York to draw with impunity. This violates the spirit of an agreement made in 1975 between the states of New Jersey and New York to protect the water supply. The past Commissioner of the DEP (Bradley Campbell) has promised to institute legal proceedings to enforce the stipulations of that agreement.
Mrs. Spiech inquired how difficult it would be to increase our well allocation; Mr. Ostrow replied that it was a very political process - and difficult, if not impossible. If we submit an application, objections are filed by North Jersey District Water Supply (overseers of the Wanaque Reservoir) as well as the downstream users (i.e. the Borough of Oakland). We would like to obtain the allocation that previously belonged to Ramsey (for which they have no need since connecting to United Water). Mrs. DeSilva asked about the status of that allocation? Mr. Ostrow stated that it becomes defunct.
With continued development in the Township as well as across the state line, Mr. Ostrow’s opinion is that we will come to depend more and more upon United Water to meet the increasing demand for potable supply.
Mrs. Spiech asked for the location of the proposed tenant application for Valley Regional Medical. Mr. Ostrow stated that this is at 400 Franklin Turnpike across from Bellgrove Drive.
Mrs. Spiech brought up a recent article in the paper detailing the concerns of the neighbors on the planned Vista Bahn development. Mr. Ostrow noted that he had requested but not yet received, specs on the ejector pumps to be used in the project. Mr. Ackerman stated that according to the article, the specs on the ejector pumps seem insignificant compared to the other obstacles this site plan will have to hurdle before it is approved. Mr. Ostrow agreed, but reiterated that only the water and sewer issues fall under the scope our authority.
There being no further questions or discussion, the Health Activities Report for December 2005 was unanimously approved.
APPROVAL OF HEALTH OFFICER’S REPORT
Moved by Mr. LaMontagne and, seconded by Mr. Wasson, that the Health Officer’s Report be approved.
Mrs. Spiech asked Mr. Hopper to bring the Board up to date on our 2006 budget proposal. Mr. Hopper expressed his disappointment that the mayor and business administrator did not include our request for additional personnel in their recommendation to the Town Council. Mr. Hopper is scheduled to be heard by the Town Council on January 25th; he will try to craft a more persuasive argument to present to the Council. Mr. LaMontagne inquired if the Board Members’ presence at that meeting would have a positive influence? Mr. Hopper signified that it could only help and expressed his appreciation for the suggestion and the offer.
Mr. Ackerman asked if we could negotiate the increase in personnel by decreasing our requests in other line items? Mr. Hopper stated that the balance of his budget proposal was already significantly reduced as compared to 2005.
Mr. Hopper noted with great satisfaction that the Clean Indoor Air Act had finally passed in the State Assembly on Monday January 9th. The Acting Governor will sign the bill on Sunday and it will become law effective April 15th. He commended the Board for being instrumental in this effort and thanked them for the many resolutions they had passed over the years trying to get this legislation passed. Mr. Hopper does not foresee much resistance from the food service industry in complying with the law; complaints will more likely be coming from small businesses that were formerly exempt from indoor smoking prohibitions. Mrs. Spiech inquired who would be responsible for enforcing the law. Mr. Hopper stated enforcement would be under our jurisdiction.
The group entered a broad discussion on the impact of the bill, the casino exemption, tax receipt implications, etc.
Mr. Hopper advised that we would be participating in a Health Fair at the Senior Center on March 29th in cooperation with the County’s Division of Senior Services. We are recruiting some professionals and HARP will also have a presence at the function. Last year’s Health Fair was very well attended and received.
At this point Mr. Hopper introduced Kate McDougall and Joanne Wendolowski of HARP, and detailed some of the obstacles they have cleared in the changeover of our nursing services. Mr. Hopper has already spent considerable time with Ms. Wendolowski who is becoming well acquainted with our operation and our concerns for educating target populations of the community, our goal to influence the menu options in our schools and addressing childhood obesity as a public health threat.
Mr. Hopper relayed that we have hired a new physician, Dr. Douglas Fenkart, to replace Dr. Yvonne Driscoll who is now retiring. We have also moved the date of the Child Health Conference to the fourth Wednesday of the month to accommodate Dr. Fenkart’s schedule as a practicing pediatrician in Wyckoff. Mrs. Spiech was concerned that this change was amenable to the staff at the library; Mr. Hopper assured her that it was.
Ms. McDougall provided a basic overview of HARP’s operations, beginning with its inception as a department of Hackensack University Medical Center in 1977. HARP currently serves 29 towns in Bergen County, providing Public Health Nursing Supervision, Public Health Nursing and Health Promotion activities. She noted that addressing obesity over the entire age spectrum is a priority of their organization, but a strong emphasis is placed on educating youth to integrate healthier behaviors in their lifestyles.
Mrs. DeSilva questioned Ms. McDougall if HARP had ever gone into any of the schools in the towns they presently serve, with the purpose of effecting changes in the school menus. Ms. McDougall replied that they had not. Mrs. Wendolowski noted that there were jurisdictional issues between Boards of Education and Boards of Health but suggested that many communities are struggling with the obesity issue and would prefer to see a collaborative effort.
Mr. Ackerman queried if HARP had a nutritionist on staff. Mrs. Wendolowski replied that HARP itself did not, however the resources of Hackensack University Medical Center were behind them, and the Medical Center’s dietician advises them regularly on nutritional issues. Mrs. Wendolowski also suggested that the interests of health and good nutrition often conflict with the interests of the school and the students who depend on the concessions and the vending machines for the funds they generate.
Ms. McDougall stated that if HARP cannot effect changes in the menus, they will concentrate on helping the children make better choices from within those menus. Lack of physical activity is another component of the obesity issue, and HARP employs the services of exercise physiologists from the Medical Center to
educate youth in that regard.
Mrs. Wendolowski explained that they were still in the “getting acquainted” phase of the transition: reorganizing the Child Health Conference, assessing the particular needs of the community and doing an inventory of our supplies and equipment. She reported that HARP has received 11 of 21 active Child Health Conference records from BCHC.
The blood pressure clinic at Stag Hill did not take place for various reasons, but Francine Mann of the Indian Headquarters has advised that she needs to help the residents acclimate to the change. The community here may also be somewhat wary of the new service as a result of a mailing sent to them by BCHC regarding the release of their medical records. Ms. McDougall assured the Board that HARP will make a concerted effort to cultivate a relationship here in order to provide the best service possible to this demographic.
Mr. Hopper thanked Ms. McDougall and Mrs. Wendolowski for their comments and their participation in tonight’s meeting.
Moved by Mr. Ackerman and, seconded by Mr. Wasson and, unanimously agreed by all present to pay the bills for December.
REPORT OF STANDING COMMITTEES
REPORT OF ATTORNEY
Mr. Mason reported that he is aggressively working to get the records of Mahwah patients who have utilized our clinics, from Bergen Community Health Care. BCHC has refused to divulge the records on the basis that it would violate HIPAA regulations, and they now insist on obtaining written releases from each patient before relinquishing
that particular record. Our position, Mr. Mason continued, is that we are the principal and BCHC is our agent; any records in their possession exist solely due to their relationship with us.
Mr. Mason has sent a strongly worded letter to BCHC demanding the return of all files but has not yet received a response. He surmised that due to the direct and forceful nature of his request, it may have been referred to BCHC’s own legal department. He will give them a little more time to reply.
Mr. Mason then apprised the Board of changes he has recommended (and which HARP has incorporated) into our new nursing contract. The changes were made to prevent future custody of records issues.
Mr. Harris inquired; if necessary, could we enlist the State Health Department to advocate our position? Mr. Hopper responded yes, and that a contact has already been made in that regard. Another possible remedy would be to contact the Board of Directors at Pascack Valley Hospital under whose auspices BCHC operates.
Re-appointment of Jeffrey C. Mason as Attorney for the Board of Health
Introduced by: Mr. LaMontagne
Seconded by: Mr. Ackerman
Roll Call: 6 Ayes, 1 Absent
2006 Contract with Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP)
Introduced by: Mrs. Spiech
Seconded by: Mr. Harris
Roll Call: 6 Ayes, 1 Absent
Appointment of Douglas Fenkart,MD as Child Health Conference Physician
Introduced by: Mr. Wasson
Seconded by: Mr. Harris
Roll Call: 6 Ayes, 1 Absent
There being no further business or discussion, a motion to adjourn at 9:12pm was made by Mr. LaMontagne, seconded by Mr. Ackerman and, approved by all present.
The next meeting is scheduled for February 2, 2006.