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July 16, 2014

Health director addresses council's concerns

Bracey asked to explain reasons behind recent actions

NEWBURYPORT — It’s not a routine event in the civic life of this city for a municipal department head to have to explain himself. But health director Robert Bracey was in that position last night, when the License and Permits Committee of the City Council asked him to an open session “to discuss concerns.”

Bracey acquitted himself well, walking through the department’s procedures in dealing with complaints from certain businesses — mostly restaurants — that have voiced their concerns with councilors.

The director, who has been here since 2010, documented the answers to every question that was submitted to him beforehand.

Many of the concerns were framed by Councilor Bruce Vogel, the owner of Plum Island Coffee Roasters. He said that partly because he is in contact with many residents and business owners, he wanted to bring “candor” to a conversation about why there have been numerous complaints.

Bracey had the full support of the local Board of Health as the members sat adjacent to him in City Council chambers. Also present was Cheryl Sbarra, senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards.

Most of the concerns that were mentioned came from restaurants and establishments that carry food. The questions included:

Why was the Screening Room’s popcorn machine shut down?

Bracey said that the business had not been washing its popping machine properly. He said that though his department had attempted to work with co-owner Andrew Mungo, the appropriate installation of cleaning sinks and drains had not taken place. Therefore, the Screening Room was ordered not to make popcorn, but to import it. Mungo has said his team was slow to comply to the director’s requests.

Why was the management of 50 Water Street, a new restaurant, not given permission to host a party before it had the proper certificates of occupancy?

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