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Board of Health Reorganizes, Hears Update On Conditions at Oliveira Property

The first post-election Tewksbury Board of Health meeting convened last night with two members, Susan Amato and Charlie Roux, joining remotely. First on the agenda: reorganization.

Robert Scarano nominated Ray Barry to again be chair. Roux seconded that motion but asked that Scarano “help co-chair” given that it’s been “a tough couple of years, with this COVID thing going on.”

With that motion and second on the table, Amato threw out her own nomination.

“I just want to be part of the voting process, the nominations this evening,” said Amato. “I would like to nominate Bob Scarano for the position.”

Scarano was previously vice chair.

“It’s certainly not a reflection on you by any means,” she said, addressing Barry. “Just from what I’ve seen in the past meetings, Bob Scarano just truly shines, so I’m casting my nomination [for] Bob.”

Scarano declined the nomination but expressed appreciation and his willingness to step up as an active vice-chair and assist Barry, especially with matters requiring legal expertise. Scarano is an attorney.

“I think that we’ve worked out an adequate arrangement from a standpoint of having Ray in the chair and the ability to recognize another member as chair in order to effectuate and speed up the business of the board,” said Scarano.

Editor’s note: Under Tewksbury bylaws, elected boards do not have a co-chair structure. Officer positions are chair, a vice-chair who may act as chair in the absence of the chair or should the chair choose to recuse, and clerk.

Barry was elected 4-0 as chair, with Scarano named vice-chair and Braga clerk. Braga will also be the board’s designee to Tewksbury Cares. 

The Tewksbury Cares group is an initiative of the BoH that “strives to promote wellness, increase awareness and support healthy lifestyle choices in the Greater Tewksbury community.” It has a Facebook page with information on, for example, Tewksbury Police Department prescription and OTC drug take-back initiatives. The group started with a mission to prevent substance abuse.

Reorg done, Amato stated that she was calling in from a funeral and would need to sign off. 

Agenda Item: Frozen Dessert Regulations

The Board moved on to the issue of sanitation at locations selling frozen desserts. Jim Lyons, owner of Dandi-Lyons, or his attorney was expected to be in attendance, according to Barry, but neither was present at the meeting.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health sets standards for inspection and licensing of frozen dessert establishments, including those that run soft-serve machines. The draft BoH regulations specify adherence with the 105 CMR 561.000, available below.

“We can make a state regulation tougher locally,” said Barry. “We cannot weaken what the state has.”

Barry’s motion, seconded by Braga, is that permit holders must maintain a cleaning and sanitizing log for each frozen dessert machine. Tewksbury also requires the presence of an employee who is ServSafe certified; the ServSafe designation indicates that an individual has sufficient food safety knowledge to protect the public from foodborne illness.

A sticking point for Lyons is that it would be cost-prohibitive to have all employees ServSafe certified. Barry clarified that, from a staffing angle, there must be only one ServSafe-certified person present on site per shift.

“Historically the department has found upon doing food inspections, that the person who was ServSafe certified had left the building and that knowledge had walked out with them,” said Barry. Uncertified employees may not have the expertise to protect customers.

“They were not aware of basic things, like how to operate a dishwasher or how to properly make sanitizer,” he said.

Keeping of Animals

Scarano stated that the Oliveira farm seems to have made some progress, having cleaned up decaying feed, for example, but remains out of compliance with the order to remove both domestic and slaughter-chain animals. 

At the March BoH meeting, animal control officers documented deplorable conditions at the Marston St. location, including miniature horses living in inhumane conditions and the potential for rodent infestations and cross-contamination by wild animals, including the possibility of avian flu being spread to domestic chicken flocks. 

The property has been out of compliance for approximately 200 days, with fines of $100 per day piling up. The town’s attorney is in discussions with a lawyer representing the farm, seeking a resolution.

“Our discussion at the meeting is going to have to be curtailed because right now it’s advanced to town counsel for them to take legal action,” said Barry. “So it’s … beyond our bounds right now to even publicly comment on any potential legal actions being taken.”

Roux noted his concern that animals considered “pets” at the premises are being neglected and asked for an update. Barry reiterated that animal control officers had seen some improvements.

Braga asked about continuous inspections to ensure those conditions are maintained. Scarano responded that animal control officers will stay on top of the situation.

The board voted 4-0 to continue the matter to May 19.

Despite the pending legal action, Elaine Oliveira, sister of owner Dinis Oliveira, attended the meeting expecting a vote on the keeping of animals permit and stated that the family is not in fact represented by an attorney. 

“There is a huge concern with these fines that you say keep accumulating because my brother can’t afford to even to pay that,” said Oliveira. “So I want to know what happens now.”

Scarano reiterated that the board could not entertain any application because of the outstanding violation.

“There’s always a possibility you could end up in Superior Court with the town,” said Scarano.

After some additional back and forth, the board moved on to discuss health violations at the Burger King at 85 Main St. and several Main St. Dunkin Donuts locations that were raised at the March meeting. 

Health department director Shannon Gillis said unsanitary conditions at Burger King were “better” but that there have been no reinspections of the Dunkin locations. 

Barry explained that the BoH’s position is that “our role is not to penalize folks but to educate them” and expressed a hope that managers will receive additional training.

Gillis reported that there were a number of attendees at the recent meeting of the Tewksbury Cluckers, a group of residents who keep backyard chickens.

Without elaborating, Scarano brought up “the current kerfluffle” regarding masks and advised residents to do what they think is best for them and their families.

“You should be able to do that without interference by someone with a contrary opinion,” he said.

Finally, Barry circled back to Tewksbury Cares.

“We know that we need to find ways to connect the dots because there’s a lot of valuable resources out there, whether it’s for mental health for adolescent or pediatric substance abuse, wellness information, because we’re not just focused on poor health, but also on good health,” said Barry. “And all the local resources aren’t necessarily aware of what each other offers for services.”

Stating that there’s “a lot of distrust with governmental agencies,” Barry suggested that the Board would like to get a Tewksbury Cares website up and running and for that to be the place residents go to search out resources. Braga stated that such a site is a project she’s willing to tackle.

“Being, you know, a nurse but also doing holistic natural health, it’s something that I do all the time,” she said. “I like to educate people.”

Finally, Roux acknowledged the service of former members Maria Zaroulis and Anthony Boschetti, neither of whom ran for reelection, and those who ran to replace them.

“All three candidates should be applauded for their willingness to put their hat in the ring,” he said. 

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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2 Comments

  1. Joe gill Joe gill April 23, 2022

    The meeting was a real eye opener and quite a spectacle, now I know why 2 of the candidates ran
    Joe

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