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Board of Health Approves Keeping of Animals Permit

The Tewksbury Board of Health, without member Charlie Roux, approved a request by Joshua and Dave Winter of 2 Claire St. for a keeping of animals permit, in keeping with Section 5.3 of the town’s Minimum Standards for the Keeping of Animals bylaw.

David Winter is the property owner, with Joshua Winter the owner of the two neutered pygmy goats.

Board chair Ray Barry reminded residents in attendance that the previous regulation included many elements that did not pertain to jurisdiction of the Board of Health.

“There was a lot of mentioning of zoning regulations and distances and setbacks,” said Barry. “When we rewrote the regulation and under legal guidance from a state association of local boards of health, we were asked to rewrite it so it would cover just areas that the Board of Health actually has purview over … so anything that deals with zoning or if someone’s worried about property values or anything, that’s not a Board of Health issue, that’s more of a zoning issue, which should be taken up with the zoning board.”

Animal inspector Pam Thomas reported that the goats are “in fantastic shape,” with housing and hay storage that meets or exceeds guidelines, and she recommended that the BoH issue the required permit.

Winter previously had 12 chickens, but a predator destroyed the flock earlier this year.

“This past winter was probably the biggest loss for hen owners in town,” said Thomas. ” The predators have been brutal this winter.”

Two residents spoke on the permit.

“I share a property line with the Winters,” said Dave Aznavoorian, who expressed concern over the viability of keeping the animals penned up.

“Boy, we had a lot of chickens running around our yard at one time and had to keep scooping them up and bringing them back, and honestly that got tiring,” said Aznavoorian. “Now I have goats blasting through the stockade fence between our yards while we’re sitting there.”

He said that despite the cattle fencing, the goats still continue to get out, sometimes multiple times a day.

“The last time we had to herd the goats, one of them charged my wife, and I was very concerned by that,” he said.

Barry replied that the permit requires that animals need be kept fenced in, and Thomas advised Aznavoorian to contact animal control if the goats escape again rather than attempting to corral them.

Stephen Trudeau of 1 Claire St. spoke in favor of the permit.

“As someone who has visited this pen on a daily basis with my children, I can see how well they’re being cared for,” said Trudeau. “I can see all the effort that Josh puts into it.”

The Board unanimously approved the permit.

Staff Update

Tewksbury health director Shannon Sullivan had some matters to report:

Oliveira farm: Town counsel heard back from the attorney representing the family and reports that Tina Oliveira stated that she “does not want the animals on the property and that they are there without her approval.” Oliveira plans to meet with her counsel to discuss how to move forward with getting the animals off the property.

Dealing with this drawn-out dispute has been an expensive proposition for the town. From May 1 to May 15 alone, town counsel invoiced $892.50 allocated to Board of Health issues.

“I would venture that the board would be interested in talking to [town counsel] Kevin Feeley about having a conversation with the attorney and effectuating the proper withdrawal so it doesn’t keep showing up on the agenda,” said member Bob Scarano.

Hopefully the town is also moving to collect the $100-per-day fine that’s been levied for months, to recoup legal costs.

Dunkin Donuts: Sullivan said an inspector went to the location at 1220 Main St. yesterday and found that workers are keeping up with their temperature logs.

“It was clean,” said Sullivan. “They’re doing everything that we’ve asked.”

The town mailed a postcard to all food establishments in town stating that as of Sept. 15, one ServSafe-certified employee must be on site at all times. That raised a pertinent question from Board member Susan Amato as to why this would be new, or news, to eateries.

“You can’t have a permit without having ServSafe, right?” said Amato. “So how are these people surviving without ServSafe? They have to have a permit to be open, correct? So how do they have permits and then not ServSafe already?”

ServSafe certificates must be prominently displayed, and if in doubt about an establishment, residents can certainly ask whether a certified employee is on site.

Covid tests: Sullivan reported that Tewksbury did opt in to receive free tests from the state, and she was notified that the town was allocated 5,670 two-pack kits that should be arriving within the next week or so. Sullivan will work with the town nurse on a plan to distribute them.

Barry closed the new business portion of the agenda with an announcement that the town knows there are some issues with brown water caused by rust, that it is not a public health hazard and that the town has set up a Frequently Asked Questions page on its website.

“We are not the only town that’s running into this issue, it’s happening a lot of other towns,” said Barry.

The town has allocated its some $9.3 million in ARPA funds to address the aging water infrastructure.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 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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