Thursday, September 20, 2012

Real time reporting: from food inspections to beavers

I managed to catch some of the Town Council meeting via the cable broadcast on Wednesday night. I tuned in as Dean College President Paula Rooney was reviewing how much Dean provides for Franklin and its students. Next on the agenda was David McKearney from the Dept of Health. The one item I expected him to talk about was the relocation of the needle disposal kiosk from the fire station to the DPW and it wasn't mentioned. Since I was remote and no one else asked, it was one of those times when being there really mattered.

The Milford Daily News spent most of its article on David's section and barely mentioned the Dean presentation.
"During the past 12 calendar months, we have had 10 new food establishments come to Franklin," he said. "As we continue to get more and more restaurants, we are not going to be able to keep up." 
There are 135 restaurants and 33 retail food stores here, including the new Big Y supermarket, every one requiring two inspections a year, McKearney said. "Right now we are holding our own," he said. "We work very hard and very aggressively." 
Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting extolled McKearney and his staff for their working so well with less. "We generally have a health staff that’s half the size of other communities," Nutting said.

The Dept of Health work was important during the two major storm related power outages as the food in businesses without power was checked to ensure that anything spoiled was discarded appropriately.

One odd item on the Dept of Health's list of things to do is to issue licenses for beavers. This responsibility is somewhat misplaced but defined by the Legislature. The only beaver permits issued thus far have been to the DPW to address situations where the beaver dams are interfering with the water supply.

During the Q&A with the Town Council after his lengthy review of the departments operations, he elaborated on the difficulty of enforcing some 'public health issues'. What defines a public health issue? The example he used was if a neighbor has a pile of grass clippings that is decomposing and smelling, he can't do much backed by the applicable regulations. If the same neighbor had a pool that was not maintained and contributing to the mosquito population, he could take action.

David was careful to discuss that his action is not as effective as 'waving a magic wand'. He can write an enforcement letter but it is still up to the homeowner, or family members or applicable agencies to help correct the situation. He is frustrated with how little he can do and how many he sees are recurring situations.

For the Milford Daily News write up,

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