HANSON — The Board of Health on Tuesday, Oct. 12 voted to accept the job description and hire a contact tracer to follow up COVID-19 cases in the community. They also discussed how to control costs and increase revenues for the transfer station.
The temporary part-time contact tracer position, instead of a public health nurse, is being sought to work exclusively on contact tracing for COVID cases, paid for by the remaining funds in the Norwell VNA line of Hanson’s budget.
The position will not be filled until the board’s question about liability is clarified.
“This will ensure that all of the contact tracing is done,” said Hanson Health Board’s Administrative Assistant Theresa Cocio.
Board member Arlene Dias said they would definitely need someone past December when CDC funding closes out.
The Board of Health will be posting the position, which will be a subcontractor for the town. The board will be contacting Town Administrator Lisa Green for liability coverage for the position in the event information about a COVID-19 case gets leaked somehow.
“Who’s liable?” said Vice Chairman Kevin Perkins about the need to do what is legal to protect the town. “Is the town liable because we hired this person and now it defaults to us because they don’t have an insurance policy?”
Health Board Chairman Denis O’Connell and Perkins expressed concern about what the cost of liability insurance would be, who pays it and what happens if there is a claim against the contact tracer. Dias, who is a care provider on a contractor basis herself, said HIPAA also covers liability for such work.
She said if she makes a mistake and/or releases information, she would be liable.
Cocio also said pay would likely be on a per diem basis.
“If there’s no cases, then there’s nothing for you to do, but if there’s an influx of cases then they would have more than enough to do,” she said.
The board also discussed revenue sources and keeping the transfer station functioning while reviewing the facility’s budget.
They had previously discussed eliminating the sticker program, which brings in about $24,000 a year, but heard back from Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Sullivan that he does not want to eliminate a funding source for the town. Trip ticket items have brought in $11,000 so far this year.
“We would have to find a way to [create another] funding source if we do away with the sticker,” Cocio said.
Dias asked why the board couldn’t institute a five-year sticker plan, increasing the cost and.
“I looked at surrounding towns and what it costs to use their transfer stations, but a lot of surrounding towns [use] curbside,” Dias said. “The only towns close that [still have stickers] are Kingston, where it’s $200 a year for residential — unless you’re a senior and then it’s $90 and you pay for bags — in Carver, you pay $140 a year and you have to use the bags to go to the transfer station.”
She said that, in terms of the stickers, “everybody charges a lot more than we do.”
“People don’t care what’s going on in Halifax or Kingston or Carver, they don’t want to pay,” Cocio said.
Dias argued that, even if the sticker fee was not increased per year and made it valid for five years (at $50 total), people still have to pay for their bags. She wondered if that would be enough to hire a person to issue stickers.
Another option would be to change fees for items currently covered by trip tickets and add fees for items not charged for now, Cosio said. Propane tanks and bicycles, metals, light bulbs and several other items come under the latter category.
“You’re still not able to control who uses it,” Dias said, arguing that uncontrolled access to the transfer station would greatly increase its use.
Rockland charges $5 and $10 for propane tanks, Halifax charges $1 or $15 for the tanks. Smaller propane tanks cost less to dispose of at the transfer stations.
“I think we have to get on par with what other towns are doing,” Perkins said. “I think it’s going to reduce the abuse of our people [from other towns] using our services and we’ve got to start bringing some more money in.”
He said what the metal recycling brings in does not offset labor costs.
“We need to take a look at all the things that we do, what the costs are, what the costs are to us and how are we going to replace $24,000,” Dias said.