CHESHIRE -- The town may be forced to pull $2,800 from its reserve fund to pay an overdue inspection fine on its Town Hall elevator.
It was notified by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) Tuesday that it had lost its appeal to the fine.
The DPS fines municipalities $100 for every day more than one year their elevators are past inspection. Cheshire's elevator was one year and 28 days late, according to the DPS letter.
By the time the fine was issued, the town already had made plans to have the elevator reinspected for safety.
Town Administrator Mark Webber made arrangements for an inspection when he became aware the certificate for use had expired. He notified the DPS of the town's tardiness when he submitted an application to the department for a new ceritificate.
Webber argued at a Sept. 28 appeal hearing the town had hired Elevator Sales and Service Inc. to conduct a five-year inspection of the Town Hall elevator in 2011. He said he assumed the inspection would be valid through 2016.
Additionally, a certificate of use previously posted in the elevator added to the town administration's confusion. It listed an expiration date prior to the inspection date.
State Department of Public Safety Hearings Officer Christopher Popov, who wrote the letter, argued there was ample time to avoid the fine.
"The key date is the actual expiration date on the Certificate for Use," Popov stated. "Based on that date, owners and/or their service providers can plan to avoid incurring mandatory fines."
The town could appeal the decision to the Superior Court, but Selectman Carol Francesconi and Webber agreed that the legal costs of doing so could outweigh the benefit of having the decision potentially overturned.
Webber pointed out that the entire fine process had played out in less than 60 days, from the time he discovered the inspection was past due to when the town was billed.
"It strikes me that they're terribly efficient in rolling the fines out the door," Webber said at an Oct. 1 Board of Selectmen meeting. "That same agency is six to nine months behind in inspections."
Towns are generally warned when they are "subject to" a fine by a state department, Webber said, which is effective at getting towns to fix "what they need to clean up."
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, joined Webber at the appeal hearing in Boston. Following the decision, she informed the town she would continue to push the issue.
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