Council favors posting Lewiston restaurant inspections online

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LEWISTON — City councilors decided Tuesday the city will post restaurant inspection results on the its website, despite some misgivings about hurting good restaurants.

Councilors voted 4-3 to begin posting the inspection reports, with Councilors Don D’Auteuil, Nate Libby and Kristen Cloutier voting to delay a decision until the city had a plan to release more detailed information.

“You can put the information out there, but if people don’t understand how to read it, there can be misinterpretations,” D’Auteuil said. “If something fails today but is corrected tomorrow, will only the most recent (report) be up there or will both reports be up there? I’m just not comfortable with this right now because of those fine details.”

City Sanitarian Sue Reny said that last year, about 10 of the city’s roughly 166 restaurants failed inspections. Restaurants can fail inspections by having more than three critical violations or more than 10 noncritical violations.

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A critical violation would involve food handling or immediate safety problems. Noncritical issues include being out of paper towels at a hand-washing station.

Reny’s reports are public records and can be viewed by visiting City Hall.

All failing restaurants are reinspected within 30 days, although critical violations must be remedied within three days, she said.

Code Enforcement and Planning Director Gil Arsenault said he would work with City Administrator Ed Barrett to decide when the reports would begin appearing on the city’s website, www.lewistonmaine.gov.

Reny said she believes the city will not post results from before 2014.

Plans call for putting up a restaurant’s pass or fail grade on the website soon after the inspection is complete, with a link to the full report to the State of Maine.

Cloutier said she thought the report was vague and easy to misunderstand.

“I just don’t feel like the report in its current form is helpful,” she said.

Arsenault said the form is set by the state and there is little chance it will change.

But Councilor Michael Lachance said the form is sufficient and information important for residents.

“A lot of people just do not have the time to take out during the work week and come down to City Hall to get these documents,” he said. “This is 2014. A lot of these documents are available and public. We are simply making them easier to access, and doing it in their entirety is important. That way, we can see if it’s paper towels or something more critical.”

stayor@sunjournal.com

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