MOUNT VERNON — The food operations license for Chen’s Buffet and Grill was revoked for the second time Wednesday evening when the Knox County Board of Health met.
Forced to make a decision after numerous food safety violations were noted, the board voted unanimously to revoke the operator’s license when more violations were discovered after the temporary license suspension had been conditionally lifted. Environmental Health Director Nate Overholt reported that a scheduled inspection was conducted June 18 with the following violations documented:
•Food on the hot bars with temperatures reading below the minimum 135 degrees.
•Reheated food temperatures reading below the minimum 165 degrees.
•Mushrooms showing dirt and debris.
•Wiping cloths sitting in a bucket of soapy water, not sanitizer water.
•A knife stored in a crack between a refrigerator and shelf.
These violations were corrected once reported.
Overholt returned Monday for a re-inspection and found a violation of raw beef strips stored in containers on top of green beans.
“When you are granted an operator’s license, it is your responsibility to see that your operations run safely,” said Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller. Bruce Juang, insurance agent representing Chen’s, explained that the Chens claimed the reason for the raw beef stored above the green beans was for personal use at home.
“This is serious. We’re talking about people getting sick,” said board member Dr. Keith Plocki. “This is the third time we’re sitting here addressing standard procedures not being followed. I have every empathy for the business. But the fact that they passed the Serv-Safe course and still can’t follow basic principles in actual production concerns me more than if they had not passed the course at all. I am concerned that there is a lack of appreciation of seriousness.”
Plocki then moved that Chen’s food license be revoked. Shirley Timpe seconded the motion, with the board giving their unanimous approval.
When the Chens asked if there was another alternative or another opportunity, Miller stated, “This is not just about the latest violations. This is about all these months of dealing with this issue and there continues to be violations.”
Overholt was to retrieve the license from the restaurant this morning.
A light monthly agenda was then covered by the board for the remainder of the meeting. Transfers of $5,000 were approved on advance paybacks to the general fund from the immunization grant fund and the Help Me Grow Grow-Part C fund. These transfers were due to not having received grants for these funds earlier in 2010.
Also approved was a continuation service contract with Knox County Job and Family Services for provision of the Help Me Grow services from July 2011 to June 2012.
Miller said a contract has been proposed with retired dentist Wayne Mahar who has stressed interest in working intermittent dental clinic coverage periods. “His services would be great,” said Miller, but she added that her main concern is that he carries a lower insurance liability limits than what they prefer. As board members stated they were not comfortable with this as well, Miller announced she will inform Dr. Mahar that his liability limits would need to be raised in order to be considered for the contract.
Also brought up for discussion was a proposal from Habitech Security for installing security devices in the health department’s conference room at a cost of $5,115. “I’m not sure it’s worth that much money to protect this room,” said Miller, as other options were discussed including purchasing a cabinet to lock up computer equipment. The use of the room by community groups was also discussed, with a proposal brought forward to assess a minimum charge for cleaning when groups do use the room.
Officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office conducted a walk-through of the department recently and offered suggestions on improved security measures. “There were a number of good ideas,” stated Miller, who added that many of these suggestions are already being considered.
Final discussion on the evening took place on possible options for a health department levy. Information shared from Knox County Board of Elections Director Kim Horn showed that a levy could not be sought until the 2012 general election with collection beginning in 2013. “We’re encouraging some groups to start some planning,” said Miller, who added there has been a variety of interest mentioned for committees on a levy already.
As a need for a levy may be imminent, board member Laura Haberman stated, “The community’s needs for services are not going down; they’re going up. Let’s a give a committee some time. They can educate the community on what is needed and what can be done.”
“We’ll need to get feedback from as many sources as we can,” added Miller.