Tonight, local officials will discuss whether food safety is still a priority for Lewiston, Maine.

On its agenda tonight, the Lewiston Council has at least two items that do not look good for food safety.

The first is to approve a letter to the State of Maine terminating the city’s agreement to inspect local food service establishments. The state will be charged with inspecting Lewiston restaurants if the termination letter is sent.

Secondly, the Lewiston City Council will vote on whether to rescind the budget for the coming year for the position of Certified Sanitation Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer.

These drastic actions have been on the agenda in Lewiston since January when DaVinci’s, a popular local restaurant with a cockroach infestation, was asked to close for nine days to address the human health and food safety problem.

Restaurant staff and a pest control contractor have worked on the issue since early in 2023.

Cockroaches are harbingers of disease and pathogens. Their shed exoskeletons and feces can trigger asthma in otherwise healthy people, and a significant cockroach infestation can be incredibly unhealthy for people. Roaches also leave behind stains and nasty smells. If they, or their waste, come into contact with food, humans can develop food poisoning-like symptoms that may become severe enough to require hospitalization.

Immediately upon DaVinci’s temporary closure, the city put its long-time and respected Code Enforcement Director, David Hediger, on administrative leave and prepared to rescind  Louis Lachance, who inspected DaVinci’s.

With the reactionary moves pending, the union representing city employees, the Maine Service Employees Association, held a “no confidence” vote on Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline.

The “no confidence” vote represented 60 city employees, including code enforcement staff. The union’s Adam Jones said Mayor Sheline had created a toxic work environment.

Sheline was elected in 2023 to a second term as Mayor of the second-largest city in Maine. He won by 122  votes out of 4,664 total ballots cast in a special mayoral runoff election

He said he was disappointed with the “no confidence” vote and said he does not have the power to hire or fire city staff, which rests with the City Administrator Heather Hunter.

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