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5 Takeaways From the August 17 Board of Health Meeting

Jade East making progress; Amato outlines a plan to assign letter grades to local restaurants

The Tewksbury Board of Health met last night with all members present.

By request of the business owner, the board delayed to September a hearing for Smitty’s Liquors on a sale of tobacco to minors violation that occurred during an Aug. 7 compliance check. The fine is not being contested.

In an update on Jade East, Wai Kwan, the food safety consultant employed by Jade East, told the board that conditions should be “perfect or acceptable” in a few more weeks. The chef and two other employees did take ServSafe training, according to Kwan.

Health Director Shannon Gillis said there have been no reported violations and that the restaurant extended its contract with the consultant.

Kate Bugda Gwilt asked for a plan of action when the consultant’s engagement ends in October, given that there have been repeated violations. Gillis clarified that she will reevaluate the situation and continue doing routine inspections, while Susan Amato pointed out that the restaurant has made progress.

“I really believe that they’re going the right way now, and believe me, I’m strict,” said Amato.

Next the board addressed noncompliance with keeping of animals bylaws by Michele and Giuseppina Saladino. Like Jade East, the Saladinos are no strangers to the Board of Health, having appeared before the board repeatedly since 2019. 

“This is not a hearing, this is to gauge your plans going forward,” said Chair Ray Barry. 

Residents may apply at the town Health Office for a keeping of animals permit for as many as 12 chickens or four rabbits. For a combination, or animals beyond that type or number, a special permit is needed. The applicant must specify the maximum number of animals and keep them in sanitary conditions.

When the Animal Control Officer visited the Saladino property at 175 Kendall Rd. on July 28 to do a re-inspection after instructing them to get rid of either their rabbits or their chickens, there were still nine chickens and 14 to 15 rabbits. 

“That triggered me to write an order letter again to the property to have them come before the board,” said Gillis, who also reminded the board that the animal shelters were in the past unsanitary. Gillis suggested giving them a deadline to apply for a new permit; they also need to work with the building inspector on structures. 

One issue is a language barrier. Gillis clarified that the couple is well aware of the regulations, having had them explained multiple times. Still, there did seem to be a lack of understanding, and Scarano asked that the relevant sections of minutes be transcribed into Italian, and that a summary of the relevant bylaws be provided. Bugda Gwilt says she has requested a translator be present at the next meeting, when the Saladinos will come back before the board.

Watch the full meeting on Tewksbury TV

After extensive discussion over the tension between the tendency of rabbits to multiply quickly versus a cap on the number of animals allowed, Bob Scarano asked the Saladinos to come back with a plan on how they will control the population. 

“It’s your job to be in compliance,” said Scarano. “It’s your job to look at the permit. Permit says 20. You can’t exceed 20. On Wednesday morning, you need to get back to 20. How does that happen? Process the animals, give away the animals, but you need to be in compliance.”

He pointed out that enforcement actions could be implemented for continued noncompliance, and that the building department may not even allow the structures. The board asked that the Saladinos provide Gillis with approval from the building inspector for the structures in which the animals will be kept and a plan stating when they intend to request a new permit and how they will stay in compliance. 

The transfer of Tewksbury CARES BoH representation from Melissa Braga to Bugda Gwilt is in progress.

In her update, Gillis reported that mosquitoes with West Nile virus have been found in Chelmsford and suggested that residents take precautions, remove standing water and consider requesting spraying. 

Gillis also updated the committee on some events happening around town.

There will be an Alzheimer’s presentation on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 10 a.m. at the Senior Center. August is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and for the entire week of August 21, the Senior Center will be “going purple,” with decorations and staff dressing in purple. Residents are invited to join in.

A free youth mental health first aid course will be held at the Tewksbury Public Library on Friday, Sept. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches adults how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adolescents ages 12-18. Attendees will build skills and confidence to reach out and provide initial support to young people who are struggling and learn how to help connect them to appropriate support.

Please email Ashley Pavlakos, Public Health Nurse for the Town of Tewksbury, at apavlakos@tewksbury-ma.gov, and let her know that you are interested in attending either of the above events.

The 2nd Annual Public Safety Night will be Sunday, Sept. 17 from 4 – 6 p.m. at Tewksbury High School. This event is hosted in collaboration with the Tewksbury Police and Fire Departments and the Northern Regional Communications Center. There will be a cookout, music, community groups and display of emergency equipment. The Health Department will have a table.

Amato reported to the board on a letter grading system for restaurants. She thinks it’s possible to have this program in Tewksbury.

“Basically, what Boston does is, go to restaurants twice a year for an inspection,” she said. If problems are found, inspectors go back in a few weeks, giving the owners time to fix the issues. Restaurants with A ratings may be inspected only once per year. B restaurants would be visited twice per year, while C restaurants are on a more intensive inspection schedule.

“I know you’re concerned about staffing, but it’s not changing anything that you’re already doing,” said Amato. Gillis previously expressed concern over whether Tewksbury has the resources to implement grading.

Barry pointed out that in Boston, for the first year, the ratings were not made public. That gave restaurants with a B or C time to improve. After that initial period, grades are online and available to the public along with information on why a restaurant has a certain grade.

“I really think it’s doable,” said Amato. “I think it’s just a matter of deciding whether or not it’s what we what we want to do.”

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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