USDA to be notified it has 30 days to act
By Mike Melanson
PLYMPTON — The Board of Health on Thursday, Sept. 18 voted, 3-0, to order that an historic horse farm at 59 Parsonage Road either be made safe and secured, or demolished, within 30 days.
A three story antique wooden barn on the property, held by the USDA, burned to the ground on Aug. 25.
Board of Health Chairman Arthur Morin said it is up to the USDA to fix the house roof, board up doors, fill the barn cellar hole, and fix trailers on the property.
Morin said he is concerned that children might go in to explore, fall through a broken floor board into the cellar, and break a leg, or come out covered with mold.
The USDA must also put a new roof over the kitchen, to stop rain from getting in. The doors are unlocked and the house is open. Doors and windows need to be secured. Mold needs to be taken out. Trailers need to be secured, but Morin said he would prefer they be taken out. There are pipes underground that go to the trailers that might be part of an illegal septic system, he said.
“It needs to be secured. It needs to be done right away,” Morin said. “This is not a request. This is an order.”
Board of Health member John Doyle said his personal opinion is he believes the USDA will demolish the structures instead of restoring them.
“We are trying to enforce this. This is a bad situation there. It’s been going on for years. It’s getting worse every year,” Doyle said.
The Community Preservation Committee is considering acquiring the property, known as the Pina property.
Last Monday, Sept. 15, selectmen Chairman Mark Russo, who chairs the CPC, said a public safety building could be built on the Route 58 side of the property, and that the old house has a tremendous historical value.
The property, he said during last Monday’s selectmen meeting, could be used for farming, community housing and recreation, and it would offer access to the Winnetuxet River.
The Board of Health Thursday also discussed septic system and sprinkler requirements for a recovery house planned for Brook Street.
Brook Retreat, 55 Brook St., is a five- to nine-month residential spiritual retreat dedicated to helping addicts and alcoholics recover through the immediate and rigorous application of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, although the retreat is not affiliated with AA.
It was founded in May by Tom Rielly, Michael Goedicke, and Joe Carroll, all recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of alcoholism and addiction.
Jeraldine Batchelder, administrative assistant to the Board of Health, said the state recommends two people per bedroom. With six bedrooms, there could be 12 people, she said.
Brook Retreat is seeking an occupancy permit for 16 people, said Rielly, who attended Thursday’s meeting.
Doyle said the house would need to increase its septic system, and with a well would need enough pressure to run sprinklers.
“Those are our priorities. Whether you’re qualified to do it or not is none of our business. I’m not expressing a personal opinion,” Doyle said. “We’re just interested in the health aspects.”
Doyle said Rielly and his colleagues should wait for approvals from other town boards, especially with zoning, to make sure they may run a recovery house, before spending thousands of dollars on septic and sprinkler systems, money wasted if no more than four people are permitted to occupy the house.
“You guys might be jumping the gun here,” Doyle said.
Rielly said the same man who engineered the sprinkler system for the Town House is engineering that for Brook Retreat.
Rielly said he does not want to miss something or miss a meeting, and just wanted to make contact with the Board of Health to see what the applicants need to do.
“Everybody keeps saying you’ve got to talk to these people, you’ve got to talk to these people. I’m just trying to do my due diligence,” he said. “We’re more than confident that it is legal. We do fall under the special regulations that we fall under.”
Rielly said that six months ago, a house in Wenham similar to Brook Retreat called Cross Keys went through zoning in that town, and six months ago, got permission through a federal court to stay there.
“We’re going to do everything we can do to keep moving forward,” he said.
The Board of Health is looking into redoing its tobacco regulations, last updated in 2001, Morin said.
The health board banned synthetic marijuana in March, and plans to look at regulating e-cigarettes, he said.
Board of Health members Thursday discussed a recent presentation by Judith Coykendall, program manager, Tobacco-Free Community Partnership with Seven Hills Behavioral Health in New Bedford; and Sarah McColgan, tobacco control director for the Massachusetts Health Officers Association in Plymouth.
The presentation centered on e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery methods, said Health Officer Cathleen Drinan.
A federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study included in the presentation showed a three-fold increase in the number of youth using e-cigarettes who do not smoke conventional cigarettes. The study also found that youth who have used e-cigarettes are twice as likely to have intentions of smoking conventional cigarettes.
It shows that efforts to create a tobacco-free generation is being undercut by e-cigarettes, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which in August called on the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes and ban flavorings that are attractive to youth.
“This is serious stuff,” Doyle said. “It blew my mind when I say that stuff.”
Doyle said he had no idea that e-cigarettes had nicotine.
He said anyone can buy an e-cigarette, even a 3-year-old, and someone could walk into the Board of Health smoking an e-cigarette and the board could do nothing about it.
Doyle said he spoke with Plympton DARE Officer Dana Smith about the presentation, and Smith is coming up with a program for the school.
“A lot of parents are unaware of what their kids can buy,” said Board of Health member Kenneth Thompson.
Board of Health members Thursday criticized an all-boards meeting called by selectmen and held Aug. 25.
Doyle said he does not think anything was accomplished. The meeting was supposed to be about communication issues, but all people did was just say what their board or department did, he said.
Morin said that former selectmen Joseph Freitas called for another all-boards meeting a few years back, and it was the same thing.
“The communication needs to be handled internally rather than through a big meeting,” Morin said.
“The problem was re-affirmed,” Thompson said.
Board of Health Notes
• The Board of health approved a large event permit and mobile food permit for Sauchuk Farm on weekends from Sept. 20 to Nov. 1 for a corn maze.
• The Board of Health approved a mobile food permit for Relish the Dog, owned by Irene Alden of Halifax, to operate at Billingsgate Farm.