October 1, 2020

Essex Selectmen Plan November Hearing on Regional Health District

ESSEX— The board of selectmen is planning another public hearing in November on the option of joining the Connecticut River Valley Regional Health District.

First Selectman Phil Miller said the board agreed at its Oct. 20 meeting to hold a new public hearing and information session on the health district next month. The district, established in July 2006, is currently comprised of the towns of Clinton, Deep River, and Old Saybrook. The district office is in Old Saybrook.

Essex has held two public hearings on the regional health district. The first, in June 2006, led the board of selectmen to defer any further action after the option drew a generally negative response from residents at the hearing. A second hearing held last February drew a mixed response from a crowd of about 80 residents, with some expressions of support for joining the district.

The health district received new attention earlier this month with the resignation of Dr. William McCann, a local physician who had served as the town’s part-time health director for about two years. Miller appointed Mary Jane Engle, the former Westbrook town sanitarian, as acting health director on Oct. 12.

Miller said Engle would work about three to five hours each week in Essex on a month-to month basis while selectmen consider the future of the town’s public health efforts. Miller’s move drew a complaint from minority Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, who contended Miller should have discussed his plans with the full board of selectmen before naming Engle to the interim position.

Marzi said Monday he would prefer the board investigate hiring a full-time sanitarian who could also serve as health director. But Marzi did not object to holding a new public hearing on the regional health district.

The board will discuss the issue further, and set a date for the public hearing, at its next regular meeting on Nov. 4.

Charles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex, and has covered various Middlesex County towns for two daily newspapers over the past 30 years.  He worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995 and the Hartford Courant from 1997 through last summer, and covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade.  Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.