FALL RIVER — The city building inspector who shuttered the space where the non-profit River to Recovery was located in a mill at 140 Ace St. last week has deemed that the organization was operating illegally.
Mayor Jasiel Correia II’s office released a letter written by Director of Inspectional Services Joseph Biszko to mill owner Patricia Tod notifying her of the violations he reportedly found last Thursday. The city building inspector’s office had been notified by fire inspectors who had conducted a routine mill inspection at the property earlier in the day.
The closure touched off a firestorm and questions about the timing of the building inspection.
River to Recovery board member and local attorney Rene Brown had filed two open records requests to the city Department of Health and Human Services requesting financial information regarding state substance abuse grants overseen by former Grant Coordinator Michael Aguiar.
An appointee of Correia, Aguiar resigned less than 24 hours after it was revealed during a City Council budget hearing that he spent thousands of dollars of grant money on questionable expenditures including a four-night stay at a luxury hotel while attending a conference in New York City.
The information was conveyed by City Councilor Linda Pereira, who was also on the River to Recovery board until her resignation after announcing her candidacy for mayor.
In a letter released to media, Fire Chief John Lynch denied allegations that River To Recovery was “targeted” were “unfounded and untrue.”
City inspectors said they were unaware of the connection between River to Recovery and the resignation of Aguiar.
“We saw something that was not safe and we acted on it. We do our job,” Biszko said on Monday.
Biszko cited four different violations in his letter including that there was no safe second means of egress at River to Recovery headquarters.
“If you don’t have a proper means of egress I will never, never let that go,” said Biszko. “I will shut the place down.”
In addition, Biszko found that there was a change of use of the space from private to public use, requiring that it be handicap accessible and an elevator or a ramp is required as well as a permit required due to a change of occupancy.
Due to the building being over 35,000 cubic feet, any changes to the structure requires plans from a design professional.
Biszko told a reporter last week that the building owner and operators of River to Recovery should have followed proper procedures and contacted the building inspectors with their plans before opening the facility, a sentiment repeated in his letter.
“This could have been avoided,” Biszko said.