The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to enter into a one-year agreement with the Westport Weston Health District to provide health services to Easton. Both parties agreed to the terms of the contract according to First Selectman David Bindelglass.
The effective start date of Aug. 1 was pushed back a few weeks, but Bindelglass expects the deal to come to fruition by the end of August. The cost to Easton will be $120,000 for the yearlong program.
It was pushed back until the new sanitarian the health district hired by to work part-time in Easton comes on board. This individual will be trained and certified in environmental health and will be located in the Easton office two days a week. He will work similar hours to the current sanitarian, Polly Edwards.
The important point is that this is an interim agreement between the two parties until a town meeting can be held for residents to decide whether to join the health district, according to Bindelglass. Residents will recall that a public vote was scheduled to take place this past spring. But the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.
Governor Ned Lamont’s May 1 Executive Order No. 7HH “Clarification of Executive Order No. 7I, Section 13 – Mandatory Suspension of In-Person Voting Requirements by Members of the Public on Municipal Budgets” scuttled the plan.
As for the cost, Bindelglass said, “We expect a town meeting will be convened to vote on joining the health district long before the yearlong period is reached. If the vote is in favor of joining, then a new agreement will be drawn up.”
Under the temporary arrangement, Easton residents will have access to all of the services the health district provides to Westport and Weston, in accordance with the requirements of the Connecticut Public Health Code:
• Testing, plan review, and approval of subsurface sewage disposal systems
• Review and approval of private wells
• Inspection and approval of food service establishments
• Administration and enforcement of all programs and activities related to subsurface sewage disposal systems, private drinking water wells, and food service establishments
Additional services are related to the:
• Response and follow-up of all public health nuisances and environmental or housing complaints
• Follow-up of all cases of reportable disease
The health district will staff a satellite office in Easton for a minimum of seven hours per week. This includes at least Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., consistent with Edwards’s office hours.
Twenty hours per week is the maximum number of hours health district staff will be available in Easton to attend to residents’ public health needs. Any more than that would require the approval of Mark Cooper, the health district’s director of health.
Easton would then have to pay $55 per hour for each hour of service exceeding the 20 hours. However, per the agreement, the standard of 80 hours per month can take precedence before the additional fees are levied. In addition to having in-town, health district personnel, Easton residents will have full access to the district’s Westport location five days per week, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The town’s health office will be located in the same space that Edwards currently occupies and shares with the town’s building department. The health district will fund a part-time secretary in the health office up to 14 hours per week (3.5 hours per day for four days).
The health district will charge additional fees for plan reviews, issuance of permits, and other public health related activities. These fees will be based on Easton’s public health fee schedule, which will remain in force for the duration of the term.
Once the transition is made to the health district, Edwards and Dr. Chris Michos, the town’s director of public health, will leave their posts. Cooper will then become the director of public health for Easton.