Pittsfield Health Board Asked to Ease Tobacco Retailer Certification
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — David Bertolozzi has managed a gas station and convenience store for 27 years and hasn't been cited once for a tobacco violation.
Yet every three years, he has to pay $25 to the Tri-Town Health Department to watch a lengthy video with information such as the anatomy of a cigarette, to be certified. All clerks are required to take the certification exam every three years.
"If a guy has been with you for six years, give the businesses a break. If they have no violations, they know what they are doing," Bertolozzi told the Board of Health.
He has now petitioned the city to put in place a system so if a person passes the exam three times and hasn't violated tobacco retail rules, then he or she doesn't have to do it again unless there is a violation.
"It is going to help the business in Pittsfield and it is not going to cost the city anything," he said.
The program is run through the Tri-Town Health Department and Board of Health Chairman Jay Green said that's the best place to take his petition. But Bertolozzi says he'd rather see the city take over the exam process so any revenue from it goes to the city.
"I wouldn't have a problem paying $25 if it went to Pittsfield," he said.
Green countered by saying those fees go toward the inspections that Tri-Town Health performs. If the city took on the exam, it would then have to have its inspectors take on the tobacco regulations, too — diverting efforts from other needs.
Nonetheless, Green said Bertolozzi makes a good point but he'd like to hear Tri-Town Health Director James Wilusz's take on it.
"We are due to have a presentation anyway so your timing is good," Green told Bertolozzi.
The petition is yet another point of contention when it comes to the city's tobacco regulations. The Board of Health has faced opposition to various aspects of the laws since implementing them in recent years.
In other business, the Board of Health needs to hold a public hearing to address a minor change in a 1979 site assignment for waste recovery facility Covanta Pittsfield.
Covanta's Environmental Manager Gary Pierce said the site assignment document from 1979 puts limits on the amount of solid waste it can burn. The plant burns waste and turns it into steam, which it sells to two local businesses for energy. The company has no problems keeping it under that limit, at 84,000 tons, but a renewal of the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 created an issue.
The company only burns some of what it takes in. It also has a transfer component, which is for recyclables and for construction material. That is collected and sent elsewhere. The 2015 permit now makes it so those collections count against the combustible total.
"It basically hampers how much we are allowed to combust and generate energy from. Now we have several thousand tons we are transferring counting toward our combustion limit," Pierce said. "We're not looking to combust anymore, the combustion limit is set at 84,000, but we don't want the transfer counting against us."
He later added that "there are years we have combusted close to the 84,000 tons." In order to change that linkage, the company also needs to update the city's site assessment. That includes the need to hold a public hearing, which the board will hold at its next meeting.
"This is a good opportunity to make our relevant paperwork current. This is a semantic act to make sure the paperwork reflects that of the operation," Green said.
Also in other business, residents Alexander Blumin and Craig Gaetani both asked the Board of Health to issue some guidance to landlords when it comes to recreational marijuana. Blumin and Gaetani said they have tenants living in buildings they own who do smoke marijuana, which is now legal, while others living in the same building don't like it.
The pair would like to have some guidelines about what landlords can do to resolve issues among tenants.
The state is taking over the regulations and hasn't issued any specific laws yet but so far, the belief is that landlords have the ability to make apartments no smoking, just like tobacco, and that there are resources out there to help them do so.
Tags: board of health, permitting, tobacco regulations, waste collections,
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