Lisa’s Pizza on track to reopen; Barry reelected for seventh term as chair
The Tewksbury Board of Health met last night with newly elected member Kate Bugda Gwilt, who won the sole contested race in the April 1 Tewksbury town election with 77% of the vote.
BoH Chair Ray Barry opened the meeting with a recognition of former member Charlie Roux, who did not seek reelection after 12 years on the board. Barry presented Roux with a certificate and thanked him for his effort improving the health of the community.
“I’d like to add, both two-legged and four-legged members of our community,” said Barry.
Roux encouraged residents to participate in local government.
“Don’t be afraid to run,” said Roux. “If you don’t, if you don’t want to take part, don’t complain to people about it later.”
Barry then welcomed Bugda Gwilt and invited her to introduce herself to the rest of the board before reorganizing. The newest BoH member holds a PhD in Pharmacology from Northeastern University; interested residents can learn more about her background and priorities on her campaign site.
In the post-election reorg, Bugda Gwilt nominated Barry for chair, with the motion seconded by Bob Scarano.
Susan Amato nominated Melissa Braga for chair but did not receive a second. Barry was elected by a vote of three to two.
He was first elected chair in 2015.
Braga was elected vice-chair by a vote of four to one, with Bugda Gwilt voting no. She had nominated Scarano, the previous vice chair, but he declined the nomination.
As is traditional, Bugda Gwilt was elected clerk on a motion by Susan Amato. That was unanimous.
Barry explained the duties of the clerk, then the board approved the February minutes as submitted.
Next up, a public hearing on a keeping of animals permit request by Richard H. Blanchard, Jr. of 31 Fieldstone Circle.
Blanchard is seeking to raise turkeys and chickens for personal consumption and described a pen setup that would prevent predators from accessing the birds while keeping them fed and watered. The animals will be processed on a relative’s farm in New Hampshire, where Blanchard learned to raise turkeys.
Amato and Bugda Gwilt asked about where he will source the turkeys and how they will be transported. Scarano clarified that the animals would be kept well away from the home’s septic system.
The keeping of animals permit was approved unanimously.
Residents may recall that Lisa’s Pizza and Jade East were shut down last year for unsanitary conditions. Health Director Shannon Gillis provided updates on both.
Lisa’s Pizza was closed last year after a fire at an adjacent property when the town learned that food was being prepared in a noncompliant basement and saw evidence of pests and other issues. Gillis said that in 2018, the owners received a variance for new FOG (food, oil and grease) trap technology and that the health department has signed off on a reopening plan. The owners will now need a building permit and hope to be back operational by summer.
Jade East was closed by the town in October and had been ordered to retain a food safety consultant for six months.
“When the health department went in they noticed there were a whole heck of a lot of violations,” said Barry.
Food safety consultants are paid for by the establishment. The town orders the hire, and the consultants perform inspections, provide recommendations on what needs to be corrected, put together training programs and follow up regularly.
Gillis said that she’s uncomfortable allowing that order to lapse. In fact, Barry classified the situation as “going backwards.”
“They’re starting to fall back into their former habits,” he said.
Barry suggested the third-party consultant use the same form as is used by the town and be held to “sort of a mandated reporter type situation” where, if they encounter critical violations, they then notify the health department.
Amato suggested that the Jade East employees be sent to training.
“No one’s been educating the staff members,” she said. Gillis said there has been some training done, but it falls short of a Serv-Safe certification, which Amato said helps employees understand why safety rules are in place.
Scarano suggested a subcommittee be put together to help local restaurants “tighten up” their standards.
“There are things we can suggest that might translate into better food service,” said Scarano. He stressed that the BoH is committed to helping businesses improve to protect public health. Barry said he would consider creating a working group.
Bugda Gwilt questioned whether an automatic temperature monitoring system, similar to what’s used in pharmacies, is available for restaurants; there is not, per Gillis, but Scarano suggested that when a grant opportunity arises, that might be a worthwhile project to fund.
In her Health Director’s report, Gillis stated that Animal Inspector Pam Thomas will host a Tewksbury backyard hen keeper informational meeting on Wed., May 10 from 6 – 8:30 p.m. at the Library. There will be a guest speaker and door prizes. Interested residents may RSVP to Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Town nurse Ashley Pavlakos is partnering with Maria Ruggerio from TPD for a grant-funded “Buried in Treasures” workshop to help those with hoarding issues start decluttering. It begins May 1 and runs once per week on Mondays for 15 weeks at the Senior Center. See below for more information.
Pavlakos is also teaching a Youth Mental Health First Aid class April 27 at Tyngsboro Town Hall, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. See below for more information.
In committee reports, Tewksbury Cares will meet on Tuesday, with a Zoom option. As to the Wellness Committee, Barry said he will reach out to the School Committee to discuss priorities for the coming year and whether a Board of Health member will be required on that committee.
Finally, Barry called out the idea of a Wellness Fair that Bugda Gwilt shared in the 2023 Candidates’ Forum. Gillis recalled that the fair was previously held at the Senior Center during Public Health Week.
“For whatever reason we stopped doing it,” said Barry.
He suggested that seniors and others have difficulty accessing health information. There was no discussion of when or if a Wellness Fair would be relaunched.
The next BoH meeting is scheduled for May 18.