Town Manager Jason Hoch said the restaurant is working to remedy building code issues identified a year ago.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town Friday ordered the temporary closure of a Main Street restaurant after an inspection revealed the business' failure to address previously identified violations of the building code.
Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Board of Selectmen at its Monday night meeting that Chopsticks Restaurant was found to be in violation of several parts of the building code — some of which first were identified a year ago.
"At their 2015 inspection last October, they were required to have a properly cleaned and tested kitchen hood duct system and hood fire suppression system within 10 months," Hoch said. "This condition was not met.
"They were advised along the way of these kinds of issues. There was no surprise, no last-minute changes."
The town's building commissioner and fire chief inspected the building again on Friday, Oct. 14, and found that not only was the previous order not followed, but there were several new issues.
"During inspection, additional dangerous conditions were found, including significant grease deposits on the inside of the hood ducting system, unpermitted access panels cut through fire-rated walls, a non-functional alarm system missing the main control panel and evidence of the attic being used as living space," Hoch said. "That left both officials no choice."
No fines were imposed for the violations, Hoch said on Tuesday morning, but the building cannot be occupied again until the code issues are addressed. Hoch also said that the Board of Health, which monitors food safety issues at restaurants, was not a part of Friday's action.
Before the building can reopen, the owners of Chopsticks must meet the following conditions, according to Hoch's report to the Selectmen:
• Chopsticks must have a functional, tested, certified, and inspected fire alarm system
• Chopsticks must property clean and certify the kitchen's fire suppression, hood, and duct systems.
• The access panels must be permitted, and designed by a registered professional to meet the Massachusetts State Building Code.
Hoch said the conditions were agreed to at a Friday afternoon Town Hall meeting attended by representatives of the restaurant and Westall Architects, which previously had designed an expansion for the restaurant.
"This is not an action we take lightly," Hoch said in a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, Willinet. "I want to be very clear about that. This is not an action we take without ample warning and support along the way."
In other business on Monday, the board approved the temporary installation of six 1,000-gallon liquid propane tanks associated with the construction of Williams College's new science center and heard an update on the college's partnership with the town to install a 2-megawatt solar array on the town-owned landfill behind the transfer station.
Representatives from H.A. George and Sons Fuel of North Adams and Consigli Construction, the construction manager of the $200 million science center project, were before the board to explain the need for the LP storage and answer any questions about the safety protocols.
The tanks will feed heaters that allow construction at the site to continue in enclosed spaces throughout the winter months. Kyle George of H.A. George explained that the six tanks — stored at two sites on the project — will allow for about three days worth of heating between refills. The large capacity was requested, in part, to minimize disruption of propane delivery during the project, he said.
Several landowners on nearby Hoxsey Street attended the meeting to press the contractors for details about their safety procedures.
"From my cursory research into liquid propane gas and particularly this volume in a pretty dense area is it's a pretty hazardous substance," Wanda Bubriski said. "Perhaps you, sir, could clarify what some of the [safety] provisions are — some sort of affirmation that Consigli working with George Fuels is abiding by OSHA rules. I assume there wouldn't be so many pages of regulations regarding the propane gas if it was so 'easy peazy.' "
The representatives from H.A. George, which has been in business since 1948, and Consigli, which dates to 1905 and has offices from Portland, Maine, to Washington, D.C., sought to assure those at the meeting that both companies take the safety concerns very seriously.
"What we're using is the [National Fire Protection Association code], which is the code which structures how tanks are installed," Kyle George said. "There needs to be independent isolation shutoffs. There needs to be excess flows in case of any kinds of problems that occur. All of that is set up and will be inspected by our local fire department."
The fire chief already had approved the plan for the temporary tank installation before the question reached the board on Monday, Hoch told the Selectmen.
Bubriski asked both George and Consigli's Andrew Jennings if either company had ever had an accident of any kind.
"We've been in business for 70 years, and there are leaks on occasion, but there's been nothing where we've had any problems with injuries or anything like that," George said.
"We check our work. We have an inspector come and check our work. Consigli is checking it, too, because it's their investment. It's not worth it to us to have any incidents."
While construction work continues at the science center and nearby college bookstore, the college also is moving ahead quickly with installation of the solar array at the town-owned capped landfill.
The college's associate vice president for finance told the Board of Selectmen that the school hopes to have the project wrapped up by Thanksgiving, weather permitting.
The school, doing business as Simonds Road Solar LLC, earlier this year took overall the permits, contracts and designs from Solar City, Inc., which previously had an agreement in place with the town. Because of a changing regulatory environment emanating from Beacon Hill, the financing no longer made sense for Solar City, but the college, which previously installed its own solar array further north on Simonds Road, stepped into the void.
Sheehy explained that the town stands to benefit to the tune of a more than $4.5 million over the next 20 years once the project is online. The bulk of the financial benefit will accrue from net metering credits on municipal electric bills; the rest will come from $31,000 annually in property taxes generated by the land's use.
Sheehy said the college is following a design negotiated with the town by Solar City that preserves the integrity of the landfill by not doing any digging to install anchors for the solar array.
In fact, the landfill cap is actually improved under the project, Sheehy explained. A second membrane has been added over the top of the existing membrane; stone and gravel were laid on top of the new membrane, and the panels -- rather than being held in place by a foundation dug into the hill -- sit on top of the gravel, held in place by the weight of concrete bases.
In other news on Monday, Hoch said the town is still waiting on the attorney general office's approval of the Waubeeka Overlay District approved at annual town meeting in May. The AGO recently notified the town it needs another extension for its review; the new anticipated date is Nov. 5, Hoch said.
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