Townsend health board to address curbside scavenging

The Townsend Board of Health recently discussed issues with people who dig through trash and recycling bins. Times-call file
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TOWNSEND – When the Board of Health met – via conference call – last week, member Christopher Nocella mused about meeting in person again at Town Hall versus over the phone.

The great hall has re-opened for employees to work there, but is not open to the public yet, according to health board administrator Carla Hitzenbuhler.

In the meantime, the next step is to install an intercom at the back of the building so people can buzz the department they want to talk to from outside, she said.

But Nocella pointed out that if employees can go inside, meeting rooms should be accessible to board members as well, with safety protocols in place and only remote public participation. He prefers meeting face to face, with their information packets on the table. “I’m a paper guy,” he said.

Nocella was referring to Phase 3 re-opening issues and an ongoing discussion about “scavenging” from residents’ roadside trash and recycling bins. Specifically, the board wants to set rules and restrictions to address it and has been holding a public hearing on the matter, continued at the recent session.

Hitzenbuhler said she’d sought guidance from the town’s legal counsel, enclosing a copy of another town’s rules. The attorney sent back comments, noting “cumbersome definitions” regarding types of trash, but nothing that would solve the problem, she said.

At issue: A man spotted roaming through Timberlee Park on curbside pickup day, grabbing glass and other items with recyclable value from residents’ privately-owned containers. Scavenging, in other words.

The sprawling development covers a lot of ground, with interconnected streets and hundreds of houses.

“I thought it was similar to solid waste and hazardous waste,” member Linda Johanson said of the reported grab-and-go, referencing existing health rules on how to handle those materials.

Another worry, not health related but worth considering, members agreed, is that besides the fact that snatching items from private property might, in effect, be considered stealing, people’s recycling bins may contain more than returnable bottles and cans. Discarded mail, for example, bills and other papers with sensitive personal information that could be used for illegal purposes.

Hitzenbuhler said that when she reached out to the attorney, she sent a copy of Haverhill’s health board rules on scavenging, for comparison. “That’s what I wanted you…to see,” she said.

Members mulled scheduling a working session to draft a restriction that would cover the matter.

But Johanson didn’t see the need. “Carla can just do it,” she said.

Other members agreed, citing the substantial amount of time spent on the issue already.

Basically, it will be a health violation, with fines ranging from $100 to $300 per day for subsequent offenses.

On a motion, the board closed the hearing and agreed to continue discussion at its next meeting July 13.