Falmouth Failed to Conduct Inspections on Rec Center Elevator, State Authorities Say
By: Brent Runyon
State officials said yesterday that an elevator at the Gus Canty Community Center was shut down Monday because the town failed to conduct inspections on two occasions. A Teaticket man who is confined to a wheelchair was stranded on the second floor of the rec center as a result.
The state elevator inspector shut down the elevator after Falmouth Facilities Maintenance Director Shardell Newton failed to provide a fire inspection for the elevator for the second time since October.
“The unit initially failed in October because the fire alarm company was not there and so we couldn’t do the fire services test, which is required for the issuance of a certificate,” Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, said.
Attempts to contact Ms. Newton were unsuccessful last week. (see clarification below for an update)
In October, the inspector issued a 90-day temporary permit, to allow the town to have the fire system tested, but when he came back on Monday and discovered that the elevator was still not ready to be inspected, he shut it down.
The fire test involves activating smoke detectors by pumping fake smoke into the elevator shaft to make sure that the alarms activate and the elevator car responds appropriately, Mr. Harris said.
“By statute, the owner is responsible to have the unit inspected,” Mr. Harris said. “In this case, the state inspector advised the building services director it was going to be shut down.”
According to Mr. Harris, the state building inspector told Ms. Newton face-to-face on Monday morning that the elevator was going to be shut down before he placed a placard on the elevator shutting it down, Mr. Harris said.
The elevator was inspected on Wednesday morning and a certificate was issued, Mr. Harris said.
But on Monday no one checked to see if anyone in the building needed the elevator, and Robert L. Parker, 74, of East Harbor Drive, Teaticket, who was on the second floor of the Gus Canty Community Center at the time, could not exit the building.
He has been confined to a wheelchair since 1987. “I’m in a wheelchair. If I’m on an upper floor and there’s a fire, I know I’m pretty much toast,” he said.
“In this case, there wasn’t any danger, it was just that we had no idea when anyone was going to come and no one seemed to know who had even done it.”
Eventually, his yoga teacher called 911 and he was carried downstairs by rescuers from Falmouth Fire Rescue.
Mr. Parker said he was nervous and uncomfortable being strapped to the small chair that rescuers used to carry him downstairs.
“I’m not any worse for it, but it was not a very good time to go through,” he said.
Mr. Parker said he contacted George R. Spivey, the town’s equity and affirmative action officer, and the state office on disabilities to help ensure a similar situation does not happen again.
“I never got an apology,” Mr. Parker said. “I just want to get some assurance that this won’t happen ever again to anyone else.”
Mr. Spivey said he spoke to Ms. Newton and she intends to write Mr. Parker a letter of apology.
Clarification (added 1/11/11)
Falmouth Facilities Maintenance Director Shardell Newton said she scheduled the elevator inspection at Gus Canty Community Center at 8 AM last Monday and waited until 10 AM for the state inspector.
She said she was told by the man’s superior that the inspector would not be coming, and she left. Later she received a call from the inspector who told her he was shutting down the elevator because she was not there to provide the inspection.
According to Recreation Director Helen Kennedy, who was on vacation at the time but spoke to her staff about the incident, the inspector did not tell anyone at the community center that he was shutting down the elevator, .
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