The South Orange Board of Trustees took its first official step in assuming the responsibilities of the Board of Health on Monday, Feb. 22.
The Board of Trustees voted to introduce ordinance 2016-03 “amending section 5-74 of the Code of the Township of South Orange Village and designating the Board of Trustees to serve as the Board of Health.”
The ordinance will have its second reading, a hearing and final vote at the next Board of Trustees meeting in March.
Although the ordinance states that the Board of Health will be abolished, Village President Sheena Collum said that the group would be restructured to act as an advisory committee and that the “passionate” volunteers currently serving on the Board of Health would still be actively working with the town in a capacity to be determined.
Collum said she and Trustee Jeff DuBowy were “pleased” to report that the ordinance had the “full support” of the current Board of Health.
Collum stated that the idea to transfer responsibilities came during strategic planning meetings throughout the summer and fall of 2015, when town leaders recognized that its two health-related employees — the health officer and the animal control officer — were, in effect, being overseen by 16 people, that is, the BOT and the BOH combined with administration.
“Along those lines, we have identified health and animal control as opportunities for shared services with Maplewood,” added Collum, who said that streamlining the statutory responsibilities would aid in that effort. (Maplewood’s governing body, the Township Committee, also acts as the town’s Board of Health.)
The vote came after a year in which the two bodies first seemed at odds but then found consensus.
Early in 2015, the Board of Health appeared to clash with the Board of Trustees over the possible adoption of a TNR program for South Orange. The Board of Trustees — most notably Village President Sheena Collum — had indicated support for a pilot TNR program, while Board of Health members indicated their lack of support for such a program at a July Board of Trustees presentation. The Board of Health, however, made a major shift in September 2015, when it agreed to form a committee to “hash out” the details of a Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program to deal with feral cats in the Township. The decision came after a presentation by Executive Director Jane Guillaume of People for Animals which has been offering spay and neuter services since 1985 and recently began providing TNR programs to municipalities.
Only one member of the public — Alyssa Aronson — questioned the transfer of statutory powers at the Feb. 22 Board of Trustees meeting.
Before voting to introduce the ordinance, Trustee Mark Rosner pointed out that the Board of Health had also had some issues with holding a quorum at meetings. He also noted that the Board of Health had relayed that it mostly follows the advice of its health officer who, in turn, follows state statutes. Transferring powers “seems like a reasonable step to streamline and opens the door to shared services,” said Rosner.
The Board of Trustees then approved the ordinance on first reading by a vote of 5-0 (Deborah Davis Ford was absent).
Readers can reach the reporter, Mary Mann, at [email protected].