Cynthia Geyer said the demands of the volunteer board had become too much.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A combined 22 years of experience on the Board of Health is leaving.
Three board members submitted resignation letters, all ending their terms at the end of the month.
Chairwoman Roberta Orsi, who has served on the board since its inception 12 years ago, Cynthia Geyer, who has six years on the board, and Dominica D'Avella, who has been on for the last four, have submitted resignations over the last few months.
"I think it is a loss to the city," said Jay Green, one of only two members left.
All three members said the demands of the volunteer board led to their resignations.
"It is incredibly demanding, what we do, in time and effort," D'Avella, who submitted her resignation on Wednesday, said.
Orsi is the most veteran of the entire board, being appointed under James Ruberto when the Board of Health was first created in the early 2000s. Prior to that, the city had a health commissioner overseeing health-related issues and the council at the time opted to switch to a five-member board.
At the time, many of the contamination issues from General Electric had still been a hot topic.
"As a result of that, the board formed to be one step ahead with whatever was going on in the city so residents would be protected," Orsi said.
Orsi was the sole member left from that original board and has chaired it for the last several years. But, she says commitments at home have grown and she needs more time dedicated there.
"It is for personal reasons mostly. I have a lot of commitments at home and I have not been able to devote the time and energy I wanted to the board," Orsi said.
Geyer echoed the sentiments of both of the other two resigning members, saying the amount of preparation before and after for meetings has been exhausting. But, she feels the board has made good strides toward its mission of keeping residents healthy.
"It's volunteer. We put in an incredible amount of preparation before and after," Geyer said. "I have such respect for every member of this board. It was a hard decision."
The Board of Health is coming off a contentious few years. It has tackled mosquito control and a heated public debate about that. It passed new tobacco laws, including raising the age to 21, minimum pricing, and capping the number of retailers — laws that upset some members of the City Council. It weighed in on the turf field project at Berkshire Community College when reports surfaced about health concerns.
"I think this board especially has come together, has been strong, and we've worked well together. We've done our due diligence; we've researched; we've called in people when we didn't know the answers. Some of our decisions haven't been popular and that's just how it is going to be," Orsi said.
"There is only so much blood, sweat, and tears," Dominica D'Avella said of her decision to resign from the board.
The board's purview is focused on keeping the city's resident healthy and over the last 12 years, Orsi feels it was able to do just that - whether it be the tobacco regulations to nuisance and blight control.
"The big accomplishments were around the tobacco. That's been of late. We still do the Hill 78 and PCB stuff from the early years. Way back I recall the school nurses were under the jurisdiction of the Board of Health and that's moved to the School Department, as it should have," Orsi said.
"I think we've strengthened some of the housing enforcement, some of the restaurants we've been able to get the department up to speed and doing enforcement and inspections."
But taking on those issues hasn't been easy for the volunteers and the three resigning members feel they don't have the time to give the dedication they feel the board needs.
"There is just only so much blood, sweat, and tears," D'Avella said.
The board will only have one more meeting before January, which will be a special meeting on Dec. 14 with only one topic on the agenda - a decision on whether or not the city will allow a needle exchange program to open. D'Avella said she won't be able to attend, so she served her last meeting on Wednesday. Next week's meeting will the final for the other two.
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