Patron blows whistle on downtown business

Call it revenge or just call him responsible, but when a former customer noticed a leaking toilet, improperly draining urinal, and exposed wiring at the Drift Inn tavern on Washington Street in Bremerton, he blew the whistle.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous because of three harassing phone calls he recently received and fear of retaliation, immediately called the Kitsap Health District’s Food and Living Environment Program Manager Bonnie Halverson, and the Bremerton’s Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Officer Jim Hardy.

Halverson visited the establishment on three different occasions and found only dampness around a toilet seat.

Hardy visited about an hour after the man’s call and said he noticed fire code violations, but nothing to shut the business down.

Recently, the Bremerton Fire Department shut down a house on Fourth Street for massive electrical problems, as well as an apartment complex at 1018 Burwell St.

“I went in (to the Drift Inn) and did an inspection and there were some code issues,” Hardy said, “but nothing there out of the ordinary,” he said.

Hardy noticed exposed wires, electrical panels that need to be replaced, extension cords plugged one on top of each other, and wiring in the bathroom that needs to be retrofitted.

“That’s not a reason for me to shut them down,” Hardy said. Hardy spoke with the owner and educated him on the fire codes in the city. The owner was not available for comment.

“There’s a few (owners) here and there that will do anything to fight the system,” said Scott Rappleye, deputy fire marshall for the city. “But most of the people we deal with are very congenial and accessible. Some are insistent they get it done the same day.”

Before the Bremerton Fire Department lost its fire inspection officer due to a budget cut in 1999, every business in Bremerton was inspected every year. Nowadays, Hardy and Rappleye do not have enough time to do that.

“Because we did have an inspector program for some time we were able to bring the city up to code,” Rappleye said. But these days, “we keep finding new businesses that aren’t aware of the codes.”

Fire Chief Al Duke lobbied for another assistant fire chief and another inspector during the city budget process, but he got a fire inspector and another fire fighter instead.

Their total salaries with benefits will be $132,000, and will raise the total employees in the fire department from 56 to 58.

However, both employees must attend the fire academy, according to Assistant Fire Chief Mick McKinley, and the next course doesn’t start until April.

“The inspector is in 10-20 buildings a day,” said Rappleye. “They inform and they educate.”

Businesses are rarely shut down if they are non-compliant to the fire code. Instead, the fire department explains the rules and asks the repairs to be done in a timely manner. If they do not comply, the city code enforcer can impose a $500 fine per day per infraction.

“I like to tell them why the code is the way it is, that way they understand what they are doing,” Hardy said.

Most complaints stream into the fire department from apartment tenants who were recently evicted from their building and are seeking some form of revenge.

“Ninety-nine percent of those are legitimate,” Hardy said.

As for the Kitsap Health District, Bonnie Halverson’s department of four people handles about 1,500 business inspections per year, from supermarkets to fast food joints to hot dog stands.

When they inspected the Drift Inn in 2003 it received a rating of 97.5 percent. The percentage is subtracted from 100 after every code violation.

At the time, the Drift Inn was docked off because a worker was placing a plastic drink bottle in the ice that was used in customer’s drinks. The employer was promptly notified.

However, in the previous six years, the Drift Inn received a 100 percent score on their health inspection.

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