AYER -- Two vacant seats remain on the Board of Health. No joint action was immediately possible to fill the seats between the sole Board of Health member, Mary Spinner, and the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 30.
Spinner was seated in the audience for the meeting, ready to suggest at least one candidate to fill one of two vacancies on the Ayer Board of Health -- former Acton health agent and Ayer resident Heather Hasz.
Within a day of each other, Board of Health members Margaret Kidder resigned on Oct. 24 and Marilyn McMillan resigned on Oct. 25. The Ayer Board of Health is a three-member board with staggered terms of three years each.
Selectmen Chairman Jim Fay said state law dictates the proper "process" to follow to fill the seats, which includes at least one week's worth of advertising for interested Ayer citizens. Fay said the joint boards' decision would be moved to the selectmen's Nov. 13 meeting.
"We will have a special (joint) meeting but it has to be after that one week posting," said Fay. Otherwise, "under Massachusetts General Law, we can't even act on it."
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand advised the board that. Town attorney Mark Reich offered his legal opinion on the necessary steps to fill the posts.
At that time, neither Kidder nor McMillan had tendered their letters of resignation to the town clerk, but only to the Board of Health office.
Reich also advised that Spinner must notify the Board of Selectmen in writing within a month of receiving the resignations. Reich said a "roll-call vote" will be required between Spinner, as the remaining Board of Health member, and the selectmen in attendance. The potential exists, therefore, for a tie 3-3 vote on any candidate if all five selectmen are in attendance and voting.
Reich also noted that those interested in the post must be a registered Ayer voter and "shall perform the duties of the office until the next annual meeting," which would be the town election on Monday, April 22.
Pontbriand indicated he'd "already received a couple" letters of interest for the posts.
"The one-week clock starts ticking when the selectmen receive written notification of vacancy," said Selectman Frank Maxant. "If we receive that on or before Nov. 2, then the schedule can be followed."
"Respectfully, I want a letter from the Board of Health," added Selectman Gary Luca. Fay agreed it was required before the vacant seats could be filled.
Before moving onto other business, Hasz asked to be heard. "Did anybody communicate that statute to the Board of Health?" said Hasz. "I submitted my letter of interest in a letter dropped off last week. I didn't know those steps."
Fay answered that the Board of Health had been notified. Pontbriand shared Reich's Oct. 23 emailed legal opinion that same day with several recipients, including the Ayer Board of Health, noted Selectman Pauline Conley.
In order for the three-member Ayer Board of Health to conduct business, there must be at least two members present for meetings. For the time being, that is not possible until selectmen act in tandem with Spinner to "elect" replacement members.
Kidder's term expires in April. McMillan's term is to expire in April 2014. In April 2013, there will be a race for a fresh three-year term to fill the seat Kidder once held, and there will be a race to fulfill the balance of McMillan's term.
Interested applicants should submit a letter of interest along with credentials addressed to the Board of Health, care of the town administrator, 1 Main St., Ayer, MA 01432, or submit same to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information interested persons are encouraged to contact the selectmen's office at 978-772-8220.
The deadline for all applications is Friday, Nov. 9. The Ayer Board of Selectmen and the chair of the Board of Health will interview applicants publicly on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Ayer Board of Selectmen Meeting Room at Ayer Town Hall. The Board of Selectmen and chair of the Board of Health will elect two candidates at that time by a simple majority vote.