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Makeshift toilet draws L&I’s ire

Another agency has entered the fray with developer Joe Mentor and his somewhat unorthodox work at the former Maria’s Taco Shop site on Bay Street.

Kitsap County Health District officials last week filed a complaint against Mentor with the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Administration (WISHA) — better known as the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I).

Stuart Whitford, the district’s water quality program manager, said employers have a specific responsibility to provide safe and sanitary toilet facilities for their employees. According to photographs taken by Port Orchard code enforcement officer Kathy Woodside earlier this month, Mentor’s workers were, in fact, using a bottomless wooden chair propped up against a wall.

Whitford said the makeshift toilet amounts to a violation of worker safety and therefore needed to be referred to L&I.

“The crux of this is that this person was defecating in a hole,” Whitford said.

Frank Marshall, the safety compliance supervisor for WISHA, said the preliminary once-over done by an inspector Monday morning indicated the need for further investigation. He declined to elaborate or discuss WISHA’s concerns in more detail, pending the release of the inspector’s report.

Marshall said the inspector assigned to the case had no previous experience with Mentor and he wanted to keep the inspector as impartial as possible.

“I know (Mentor) — by reputation only,” Marshall said, alluding to problems Mentor has had with WISHA in the past.

Mentor has been in Las Vegas attending a homebuilders show for the last week. On Friday, he dismissed reports of work violations, saying he would resolve any problems the authorities could find at the worksite.

Mentor did however indicate earlier concerns the Department of Fish and Wildlife had with Mentor dumping rock over the bank of Ross Creek — which abuts the taco shop property — were largely overblown.

“The rock we’d put in was just to replace what was washed away in a couple of places,” Mentor said.

“I didn’t know rocks would damage fish,” he added. “There’s rocks all over up the creek.”

Fish and wildlife officials, however, appear to disagree. They predict Mentor will have to remove the dumped rock — possibly by hand — and replant the damaged areas of creek bank.

“We’re supporting the city in asking the riprap (rock) be removed immediately,” said area habitat biologist Randi Thurston.

Mentor, who bought the taco shop property several months ago, has been upgrading and cleaning the former restaurant in hopes of attracting a new tenant. He said Fiesta, a Mexican chain with several restaurants in Bremerton, has expressed interest in the site.

Mentor said he expects the cleanup work to be finished within the next month, although he could not estimate when a new tenant would be likely to move in.

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