Health & Wellness

Westfield Board of Health Holds Hearing with Restaurant, Discusses Partnering with Other Boards Following Edison School Threats

The Westfield Board of Health held a hearing with a popular restaurant at Monday night's meeting. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna

WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield Board of Health heard from Turning Point during Monday night’s meeting after the restaurant received three consecutive conditionally satisfactory ratings.

The primary issues during each inspection included improper refrigeration temperatures, improper temperatures in the dishwasher, poorly concentrated sanitizing solution and employees who used dirty towels to wipe their hands or cooking equipment, according to registered environmental health specialist Helen Mendez.

Additionally, wet dishes were stacked together haphazardly, chicken was found to be undercooked when checked with a thermometer, visibly soiled dishes were placed on a clean dish rack and employees did not properly wash their hands, Mendez added.

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“We sent both of our managers to get ServSafe certified, installed a new hot water heater, had every single piece on the dishwasher replaced and implemented a new technology called Jolt,” district manager Kerry Beyer said.

Jolt was explained by owner Kirk Ruoff, who praised the software system for its convenience and reliability.

“It’s a piece of technology, a self-auditing daily checklist that the managers have to use to operate the restaurant,” Ruoff said. “They take temperatures with a Bluetooth thermometer and send a report to Kerry the next day so she can now monitor every day what is being done in that restaurant.”

Board member Vasilios Diamantopoulos questioned the reliance on Jolt, saying that the technology will inevitably fail and the staff needs to know how to operate without it.

“It’s managerial oversight, it’s making sure people are properly trained and take it upon themselves to do the right thing,” Ruoff said.

Ruoff also said that part of the poor inspections was due to a new staff, who were brought in following the first inspection and were not fully trained before the second.

“We had to terminate our kitchen manager, who’s a single mom and begged for her job,” he said. “In our guidelines, when you fail your inspection, you’re terminated. That’s it. She was aware of those ramifications and she lost her job, so we replaced her and that’s what needs to be done. You need people who have the discretion to say ‘hey, don’t do that.’"

Because Turning Point is currently in compliance and has improved upon their critiques, the board agreed to a standard penalty, which means the board of health has the right to close the restaurant for two days at the discretion of the health inspector for any rating that’s less than satisfactory within the next year.

“You seem to understand why you were brought here today,” O’Neill said. “It’s not common that restaurants come in to see us. It’s unfortunate that you had three conditionals in a row and we would like to institute additional control to make sure you stay in compliance for the upcoming year.”

Afterward, the board agreed to cancel the Sept. 10 meeting, which falls on Rosh Hashanah, and discussed how they can work with other departments in the wake of recent threats and incidents at Edison School.

“For me, as a parent and a health professional, I see a gap with communication,” board member Andrea Marcus, who works in emergency preparedness, said. “I feel really confident that there is a better way that we could give the community truthful information, clear instruction and things to do that will keep them active and engaged without panicked parents running around the school. I’m proposing that we, as public health professionals, figure out a way to become involved in this.”

Vice president Lawrence Budnik agreed with Marcus and suggested that the board consider climate change and opioid abuse as additional topics to discuss with other government agencies. Board member Elizabeth Talmont added that the board of health could also partner with the board of education to address vaping, a nationwide trend that’s become a habit for many Westfield students.

O’Neill requested that the members arrive to the next meeting with ideas to concentrate on for the rest of the year.

“I believe a theme will be trying to get different boards to bring their ideas together,” he said.

The meeting was cut short so the planning board meeting could begin an hour earlier than usual. The next meeting will take place on Monday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m.

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