Marion Building Commissioner/Zoning Officer Bob Grillo was on hand at the July 21 Board of Health meeting to discuss pool and spa regulations and what is deemed a bedroom under Board of Health regulations.
Grillo reported to the board that Marion’s fencing requirement around pools is now in conflict with the state regulation that allows safety covers in lieu of a barrier. The safety cover or retractable safety cover must meet certain criteria, but Grillo considers it a poor idea.
“Problem is, I can’t enforce your regulation,” Grillo told the board members. “So if I go out to a pool on a final (inspection) and there’s no fence around it and there’s a safety cover that’s appropriate, I have to sign off on it. Enforcement (of Marion’s regulation) would be up to the Board of Health.”
Grillo wanted to ensure that he and the board are on the same page as to the scope of his authority and work.
Building code, he explained, happens at the state level; building regulations are established at the municipal level. Grillo said he is happy to relay information to applicants and make notes that Marion’s pool regulations require an approved barrier. He would also inform the Board of Health that he passed a pool inspection that has yet to meet Marion’s required barrier.
Dr. John Howard, the Board of Health chair, said that Marion’s regulation had changed from a 6-foot to 4-foot fence in sync with the state’s regulation change. He was not eager, however, to abandon the current barrier requirement in order to fall in line with current state code.
“I would suggest we wait for Town Counsel to come back (from vacation),” he said.
Dr. Ed Hoffer, the only other board member at the present time, disagreed with the state code. “I feel that one drowned kid is an awful lot too many and that we should keep the fence requirements,” he said.
Grillo agreed to report back and was invited by Howard to inform the board at any time regarding such matters.
As a 30-year contractor, Grillo acknowledged that “everyone has their own interpretation of what a bedroom is.” He referred to the state Department of Environmental Protection having its own definition. In Sandwich, he said, a deed restriction is used as a tool to enforce a three-bedroom house against using its designated “home office” as a bedroom.
“I would interpret (the building code) as, if it’s not intended to be a sleeping area, then it’s not a sleeping area. … It should be standard across the board,” Grillo said.
“That’s going to be a tough call,” said Howard, acknowledging the complexity of enforcement.
Grillo noted that for the purposes of septic installation, a single-family dwelling is a minimum, three-bedroom house.
Hoffer said that most complaints that reach the Board of Health are about rental properties.
Also reporting to the board on July 21 was Bob Ethier, who is acting as Marion’s Health agent while the town is in a hiring process. Ethier, a recent retiree who is serving multiple towns on a part-time basis, discussed home inspection and working with struggling residents.
Two problem properties on Pitcher Street are closing in on resolution.
Howard said that the problems at 28 Pitcher Street have been ongoing for over a decade.
“This has been going on too long … the owner has been before the board in the past. I think it’s time to act,” he said.
Hoffer suggested is it time to issue a demolition order.
Ethier reported that there are holes in the house, that the eaves are falling off, making entryways for insects and rodents. He said there is rot under the garage and had he the opportunity would have told the owner, “I don’t believe that it is salvageable.”
Grillo said that from a structural standpoint, there is a provision in the town’s regulations for the Board of Health to issue a “make safe or teardown” order, but he does not think 28 Pitcher Street has reached that point. That would change, he said, if children could access the inside of the house.
As it is, wild animals are around the house, prompting neighborhood complaints. “I think we have to represent the neighbors who have put up with this … a very long time,” he said.
Ethier said, “The kids have a right to recreate out in the yard and they cannot do that.” He said the next step should be a letter from the Health Department requiring the owner to bring in a structural engineer on a 30-day deadline. The structural engineer has the authority to order demolition. “If he doesn’t, we’d have to take it to the (state) Housing Board,” said Ethier.
Hoffer suggested an ultimatum in the form of a 30-day deadline for the owner to produce a contract to get the house repaired or the board issues an order to demolish it. Grillo said that an order to demolish would require a road inspection because the animals inside would scurry and could wind up in a neighbor’s house.
Howard agreed with Hoffer on a 30-day deadline to sign an order for repairs or face demolition. “The owner was out of state, but I think it’s time,” he said.
Ethier discussed several other properties and reported to the board.
He said the attorney for the owner at 33 Pitcher Street said there are plans to build a new house on the site, but Ethier told him the site needs to be cleaned up or the town will not sign any building permits.
In order to stop the odor coming from the cesspool at 278 Congress Road, Marion would agree to a contract to pump the cesspool daily as needed until the property is either hooked up to town sewer or a new septic system is installed.
Ethier reported that he was not allowed inside 464 Front Street but said he told the lady present that he would help her get the property cleaned up.
Grillo could not get access to 1121 Point Road, which has shutoff notices on its front door. Ethier said no one is living there, that a “tax lawyer” was around. He called the property a “real mess” and said, “we’re going to get some compliance … we’ll keep trying.”
A leak in the kitchen at 34 Pine Street is a hardship situation for a family.
Finally, Ethier said the situation at 1010 Point Road has been repaired and the case is closed.
Ethier told the board he planned to visit 578 Front Street later on July 21 regarding a high-nitrate situation. “I expect one or all of them to be in compliance next time,” he said.
Howard and Hoffer expressed appreciation for Ethier’s detailed report.
In her Health Director’s Report, Lori Desmarais told the board that vaccines have been ordered for the fall. She reported 11 food inspections since the last Board of Health meeting. Covid-19 cases, said Desmarais, are back on the decline, having sunk from 37 in June to 15 in July.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health was not set at adjournment.