Health budget OK’d as COVID cases decline

Feb 26, 2021 by

Published in the February 26, 2021 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — Health Director Ruth Clay says that while local COVID numbers are steadily declining, now is not the time to let up on precautions. Clay provided an update at this week’s Town Council meeting.

Clay reported that 871 people were given their second vaccine dose on Monday, while another first-dose clinic is scheduled for today for eligible individuals at the 200 Quannapowitt Ave. site. Once those vaccinated today get their second shots, Clay said, there would be no more local clinics.

However, that may change. After objections from local health officials, Gov. Charlie Baker has backed off an earlier decision to move away from local clinics in favor mass vaccination sites.

Clay reported that the Health Department has been notified that it will receive 200 doses of vaccine for the residents of the Housing Authority’s  Harts Hill senior housing complex.

Clay was also at Monday’s Town Council meeting to discuss the Health Department’s FY 2022 budget.

Town Accountant Kevin Gill presented the budget numbers, noting an increase of $7,983 for next year, all in personal services for negotiated salary increases. He pointed out that the hours of the Public Health Nurse will also be increased in next year’s budget.

The total budget request for the Health Department was $277,023.

Clay confirmed that the budget was “essentially level-funded” with the exception of the contractual increases and the added hours for the Public Health Nurse.

She noted that practically all activity in the Health Department has been COVID-related for the past year, in addition to public health inspections and responding to complaints. She said that the state has been flexible in allowing grant-funded positions to shift their focus to COVID.

The Town Council approved the FY 2022 Health Department budget.

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The Town Council approved the FY 2022 General Insurance budget at $460,425, up $23,200 from the current year. Gill explained that the General Insurance budget covers town-owned buildings and vehicles as well as professional liability and cyber-security. John Spinello of Hartshorne & Curley Insurance Agency, the town’s insurance agent, was on-hand to answer any insurance-related questions.

The Workers Compensation budget request for FY 2022 was down $65,079 from the current year, Gill said, coming in at $472,540. Spinello explained that the decrease was attributable to the town’s experience modification rating. He said that last year’s mild winter reduced slip and fall claims. Plus, last year’s COVID-related shutdown of all municipal buildings eliminated all on-premises losses in those buildings.

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The Animal Inspector’s budget request for FY 2022 was $40,600, a reduction of $44,811 from the current year. Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio explained that longtime Animal Inspector Kenneth Stache has retired and the town is looking to contract out the Animal Inspector duties, which will likely mean sharing an Animal Inspector with another community. He said that he is determined to create a partnership with a nearby community for Animal inspector services. In the meantime, the town continues to use the individual who filled in when Stache was on vacation, paying that person on a per-call basis.

The Town Council approved the Animal Inspector’s budget.

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Gill said that the Parking Clerk’s budget of $12,950 reflected an increase of $3,575. The Town Council, approved the budget.

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The FY 2022 Medicare budget was also approved at $832,650, an increase of $39,650.

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In other business this week, the Town Council:

• Approved a list of surplus DPW equipment to be auctioned off.

• Approved a one-day liquor license for the Hartshorne House Association for an event on March 13.

• Approved a request from the Library to accept and expend gifts totaling $22.95. 

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