BoH Upholds Penalties for Tobacco Sales; Told of Conditions at Pet Store

The Revere Board of Health (BoH) held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday in the City Council Chambers. Chairperson Dr. Drew Bunker and fellow members Dr. Craig Costanza and Nezha Louaddi were on hand for the meeting, as well as Lauren Buck, the city’s Director of Public Health; Michael Wells, the Revere Health Agent/Director of Inspectional Services; and Paula Sepulveda, the Board of Health Clerk.

Bonny Carroll, the Director of the 6-City Tobacco Initiative, presented the board with a report of the violations of the tobacco sales product laws to minors under the age of 21 by four local businesses. The board assessed fines and suspensions for the illegal tobacco sales as follows:

— A $2,000 fine and a seven-day suspension of tobacco sales to Gasco Oil for a second offense. It also was noted that the company had received a 30-day suspension of tobacco sales from the state;

 — A $1000 fine and a three-day suspension of tobacco sales to A.L. Prime, 655 Revere Beach Parkway, for a first violation; 

— A $1000 fine and a three-day suspension of tobacco sales to Parkway Liquors, 190 Revere Beach Parkway, for a first violation. The manager of the store apologized to the board for the violation. “There is no excuse. It should not have happened,” he said. “We have all of the proper signage in place. It was one of our most cautious employees, but it never should have happened. We have retrained the employee on-line”; 

— A $1000 fine and a three-day suspension of tobacco sales to Richdale Foods, 191 Shirley Ave., for a first offense. The manager apologized for the incident. “I’m sorry for that, my employee did not understand,” she said.

The board also was told of the extent of the rodent infestation at the PETCO in the Northgate Shopping Center at 339 Squire Rd., which has forced the store to shut down until it remediates the situation to the satisfaction of state and local inspectors.

Wells said this has been an ongoing issue at the store. Wells explained that the department had received complaints about a strong odor and rodent droppings in the store dating back to last summer.

“We met with management,” said Wells. “Pest control services were increased and flashing was added over the walls to eliminate holes and trappings were taking place, but there was  little improvement in rodent control.”

He said the store was closed on September 8, 2022, and now again on February 15.

Wells said his department has had communication with the landlord, the owner of the shopping center, who reported that the exterior of the plaza has been baited on schedule, for which service reports were provided, but that each tenant must maintain its own space.

“Northgate has been an issue in the past, but the exterior has improved significantly in the past two years,” said Wells, who added that the plaza complies with all of the city’s trash-related regulations.

“However,” Wells continued, “there still was a strong odor and lots of rodent droppings at PETCO and the state will not renew PETCO’s license until the infestation has been mitigated. They are trying hard to mitigate the problem and doing a lot with their pest control company and have done some more flashing on the walls.

“Hopefully, we’ll see some results and get the store back open,” he added. He also said the state has given assurances that the pets in the store are being well taken care of.

A representative from PETCO, Amy Ebersole-Martinez, told the board of the action it has been taking to deal with the problem.

She explained that all of the shelving has been removed from the walls and has been sanitized, and all of the products have been taken off the wall. A contractor reflashed along the base and all contaminated insulation was pulled out, reducing the odor. The flashing has been extended up the wall to 18 inches and the walls have been re-sheetrocked.

She further said there was a mass trapping and an outside firm has been on-site to address the problem. She also noted that the employees at the store have been working additional hours to continue to do deep cleaning. 

In addition, future shipments of products have been halted for the next two weeks and pallets will be inspected and will be blown with leaf-blowers outside of the premises to make sure that rodents do not enter the store. 

A representative from Eco-Lab, the firm hired by PETCO, told the board of the extent of the problem.

“There was total infestation in the insulation and 100 baby rodents were found,”  she said.

She also noted that rodents travel throughout the plaza through the connected ceilings. Wells noted that his department also has looked at other businesses in the plaza. 

“When you reopen, what steps will be taken to prevent this from happening again?” Bunker asked Ebersole-Martinez. “What’s the plan going forward?”

Ebersole-Martinez replied that the company will be installing more permanent equipment inside the store to prevent nesting, plugging the ceiling, and retaining Eco-Lab for enhanced services up to three days per week.

“This has been the biggest deep-clean and take-apart of any of our stores,” she said.

In the board’s other business, Buck presented the Public Health Communicable Disease monthly report. She said that in February there were only 16 reported cases of influenza in the city, a significant decline from January that mirrors state and national trends. As for COVID-19, she reported that there have been 26,512 confirmed cases in the city and 203 deaths to date.

On a separate note, Buck reported that almost 60% of teen girls reported feeling sad in a recent survey, an all-time high, and 1-in-3 reported suicidal feelings, also an all-time high. She said that there is a new, 24/7, suicide crisis hotline —  988 — that will connect the caller to a trained crisis counselor.

Wells presented the Inspectional Services monthly report in which he outlined the department’s usual inspections for certificates of occupancy, pool and spa inspections, routine food inspections, and responses to complaints.

He also noted the violations issued by inspectors during the past month: 47 for accumulations of litter, trash, and debris; 23 for improper bulky items; 233 for improper placement of garbage and trash; 10 for improper storage of garbage and trash; 10 for junk heaps and automobile graveyards; and  three for multiple unregistered vehicles.  

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