Changes Coming To the Frederick County Board Of Health

Membership will include six, non-voting liaison members.

Frederick, Md (KM) Membership of the Frederick County Board of Health has been expanded. Under a bill approved Tuesday by the County Council., the new board will consist of Council members, the County Executive and the Health Officer, as it does currently. But there will also six liaison members: an epidemiologist, a nurse, a mental health professional, a veterinarian, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and one person with a scientific background. These liaisons would provide their expert advice on health issues, but will be  non-voting members.

Prior to the vote on the main bill, Councilman Mason Carter proposed an amendment which would require liaison members to be registered voters and residents of Frederick County. “I think it’s absolutely wrong to allow a very powerful body, such as Board of Health, to be advised by people who do not have a stake in the decisions they make,” he said.

Councilman Jerry Donald, who sponsored the bill, said liaisons  don’t need to be county residents. “And they’re just giving advice. The voting members are registered voters expect for possibly the head of the Board of Health. They are elected officials. To me, we’re very accountable to the public. They can very loudly and clearly tell us if they like or don’t like what we do,” he said.

Vice President of the Council, Kavonte Duckett, said he too is against the amendment. He noted that a lot of expertise can be found at Frederick Health Hospital and Fort Detrick, and not everyone there is a Frederick County resident. “We do the public a disservice to turn people away from serving on a board or a commission that they could be potentially be helpful to,” he said.

Councilman Steve McKay voted in support. “It is very straightforward,. All of our board and commission members have that same requirement,’ he said. “You could actually argue that it doesn’t need to be stated. But it is worth stating and it’s very appropriate to have it in here.”

The amendment was voted down with Councilmen Carter and McKay in support, and Councilmembers Donald, President Brad Young, Duckett, MC Keegan-Ayer and Renee Knapp in opposition.

The legislation itself was passed by a four-to-three vote, with Councilmembers Donald, Young, Keegan-Ayer and McKay in support, and Councilmembers Carter, Knapp and Duckett voting “no.”

“We do have the ability to have a board of experts advising us, where we’re not just counting on them to come to our meeting, or counting on {Health Officer} Dr. {Barbara} Brookmyer to get them to come to our meetings. We actually have a board that’s ready to go,”; said Councilwoman Keegan-Ayer. “And so I’m hoping this will make things a little smoother.”

The Board of Health met frequently during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Kevin McManus