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Williamstown Health Inspector Updates Board of Health on Training
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:08PM / Wednesday, March 06, 2024
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Williamstown Health Inspector Ruth Russell updates the Board of Health as board member Ronald Stant looks on.

Board of Health members, from left, Ronald Stant, Jim Parkinson, Win Stuebner, Sandra Goodbody and Devan Bartels participate in Monday morning's meeting.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's health inspector Monday updated the Board of Health on training she has been receiving since taking the position in November.
Ruth Russell told the board in a morning meeting at Town Hall that focuses for her have included learning how to do Title 5 septic inspections and food inspections.
"I went to a Title 5 seminar in Taunton last week," Russell said. "I feel like I'm getting there. Two months back, I did two Title 5 inspections in Great Barrington with the woman I'm training with.
"I'm looking forward to doing some in Williamstown so I can get a better handle on it in person."
When Russell was hired late last year, the plan was for her to be mentored by the health agent in Great Barrington, with which the town entered an intermunicipal agreement. Russell also has been taking advantage of training from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Public Health Alliance, which offers three four-hour training sessions on food inspections, Russell said.
"[Great Barrington's Rebecca Jurczyk] has been coming up at least once a week," Russell said. "We also Zoom every Monday. I have another meeting every Thursday with the Berkshire Public Health Alliance.
"I'm feeling really supported and definitely getting there with training."
Russell used the opportunity of the "check in" with the board, which is advised by the health agent, to see what information the panel would like to receive from her office about her day-to-day activities.
"I don't think we've felt the need to keep track of what you're doing," James Parkinson told Russell. "On the other hand, if you have a question we could answer, we're always available. I think you can be the driver, and when you need something, ask us. You don't need to let us know everything you're doing."
Chair Win Stuebner joked that the board was "spoiled" by longtime Health Agent Jeffrey Kennedy.
"Jeff did things we had no idea what he was doing," Steubner said.
He told his colleagues that Russell has been good about calling or emailing him to ask if something came up that the board might want to know about.
"We'd rather have you overdo [information sharing] than underdo it," Stuebner said.
Monday's session marked just the second full meeting of the board since Russell took her position, but Russell said she would continue to send email updates to the board members during the months when it does not sit.
The board made no formal actions on Monday, even though it did have a potential enforcement action warned on its agenda.
Russell reported that a complaint came in to Town Hall about the 6 House Pub, where a diner claimed the plumbing was not working, there was no hot water and the restaurant was "dirty" during their visit.
Russell said she was out sick at the time the call came in, but two members of the Berkshire Public Health Alliance made a visit to the Cold Spring Road restaurant and found that the plumbing was working fine and there was, in fact, hot water.
Although there is no enforcement action needed, Russell said she planned to return to the restaurant to do a full inspection in the next couple of weeks.
Russell also updated the board on progress with a residence at 1033 Simonds Road, Route 7, near the Vermont state line. In December, she rescinded a condemnation order on the property, but the owner still is obligated to clean up "wood piling and outdoor clutter" on the property's exterior.
Russell said the owner had a deadline in May, and she is hopeful progress will be made now that the weather is warming up.
Finally, Russell notified the board that she is working on an updated well-digging permit for the town, which only had one applicable permit for wells intended for drinking water or geothermal heating and cooling.
Since the latter does not involve extraction of potable water, Russell is working to make sure the language for geothermal wells does not require lab testing, for example.
Stuebner used Monday's meeting to discuss the latest news about COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
Emergency room visits and hospitalizations for acute respiratory illness are down in the commonwealth and in the county, he said.
"I talked to Jim Lederer at BMC last Thursday, and as of then there were only seven COVID patients in the hospital, two flu and no RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]," Stuebner said. "All mild cases.
"Right now, we seem to be in a decline as far as respiratory illnesses are concerned, which is good."
Stuebner said it remains a concern that only 20 percent of Massachusetts residents eligible for the latest COVID-19 booster received the jab, and he wondered aloud whether there would be similar or lower numbers when the next booster, targeted for older Americans, is released this spring as reported.
On the other hand, Stuebner said new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control again show that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is just something that society is living with.
"You've probably read the new guidelines coming from the CDC as far as isolation," Stuebner said. "If you test positive for COVID, you no longer have to isolate for five days if you're fever free for 24 hours without the aid of Tylenol or ibuprofen and your symptoms are improving.
"Oregon and California have had these regulations in place for a couple of months and haven't seen any spike in illnesses. And, probably, it's what's happening anyway. Very few people are testing anymore. Many people in the community probably have COVID, and they don't know it. They're asymptomatic."
In other business on Monday, Parkinson told his colleagues that he recently visited the Spruces Park on Main Street and was surprised at what he saw.
"I was absolutely astounded at how much dog feces there was, untreated, all over the place," Parkinson said. "Within 10 feet, there were probably 20 piles. … Maybe it's just the winter accumulation.
"Is that a health issue?"
Stuebner noted that the Select Board currently is weighing how to manage use of the park by dog owners with unleashed pets and agreed that, in the end, fecal matter left in a public park is a public health concern.
He asked Russell to draft a letter to the Select Board on behalf of the Board of Health offering its assistance if the Select Board wishes it to be involved in the conversation.
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