Report: Newport faces 101 labor violations

Posted May 06, 2009, at 9:53 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — After waiting nearly three months for a report from the Maine Department of Labor on the status of four town buildings, Newport selectmen learned Wednesday night that things are very bad.

The report cites 101 violations — nine pages of unsafe conditions — that were all ranked as serious. The violations were at the police and fire complex, the town office, the public works garage and the transfer station.

“There were 35 serious violations on electrical issues alone,” Town Manager James Ricker said. “It’s a mess.” Without even considering any fines, Ricker said he could not imagine what it would cost to correct the violations. “We could be looking at more than $60,000,” he guessed.

It came as no surprise to anyone that the public works garage and the building housing the police and fire departments had significant issues. They are old and in need of major upgrades. The town has been waiting to build a new public works garage out of the downtown area and then use the existing location to construct a new public safety complex.

This project has been on hold, however, because of the poor state of the economy.

The lion’s share of the violations were in the fire and police complex. They ranged from simple fixes, such as updating the inspections on the fire extinguishers to conducting various health care programs. Emergency lighting was a key issue along with a bevy of electrical problems.

Some violations seemed minor and easily fixable, yet were still marked as serious, such as the eye-wash solution in the first aid kit had expired, a door from the fire department into the police station did not have a sign stating “not an exit” and snow and ice was not adequately cleared from the doorway of a rear activity room.

Similar electrical violations were found in the police station, including several improper extension cords. Dead bolts were to be removed and all lights needed guards. A handrail on stairs to attic storage was required.

Electrical conditions also were noted in the public works building and at the transfer station.

The town office is much newer and had only five violations, which consisted of the use of power cords, a missing sign above a fire extinguisher, video terminal training, hazard communications training and a missing emergency action plan.

“Some of that stuff seems ridiculous,” Selectman Roger Carr said. None of the board members questioned why specific training had not been completed or why some of the more obvious repairs had not been done.

Ricker told the board that any violation not corrected by Aug. 19 would result in a fine.

“The department heads and I will work on this as fast as possible,” he said. “We’ll come up with a program of attack.”

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