SUNBURY — Food inspection reports for Sunbury and neighboring Northumberland have finally been uploaded to a state website after nearly a year — or longer in Northumberland's case — because of a "glitch," city officials said Thursday.
Hard copies of the reports are kept in Northumberland, according to borough manager Jan Bowman, but in Sunbury Inspector Mary Sue Smith's reports don't always make to the office to be viewed by the public, according to Councilman Ric Reichner.
As of June 6, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's public website showed no reports from Sunbury since July 2018 and from Northumberland since September 2017
On Friday, state Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers said there was an issue with Smith's computer.
"She (Smith) was out conducting the inspections but there was an issue with her computer and it was not getting the forms uploaded directly to our site," she said.
Powers also said the problem was noticed last week at the same time the state was going through an upgrade to its website, so the forms were held back a few more days.
Reichner, who oversees the city's code department, wants to keep the information in the code department office for public view.
City Administrator Jody Ocker said the reports have been done.
"We noticed a glitch and that prevented them from being uploaded," Ocker said. "I have spoken to Mary Sue (Smith) and we called the state and these reports will be posted as soon as possible."
Reichner recently asked about the reports. He said he discovered the city had very few to no documents.
Following a Daily Item review of food inspections in 2017, Smith vowed to provide copies for the public to view if they did not have access to a computer. Ocker said she wants to keep the records out of City Hall and people can view them online.
Ocker believes it is much more effective to just upload the documents than keep hard copies in city hall, she said Thursday.
Reichner disagreed and said the city should have hard copies on file.
Smith, who is paid $4,000 by Sunbury, is also the part-time food inspector in Northumberland Borough where she is paid $850 per year.
Reichner said Smith is a part-time city employee and a contracted employee with Northumberland.
"We are also going to look into the hiring arrangements. Council was not aware of any hiring of a part-time health officer," Reichner said.
Reichner said Smith does not report to the city or have any timeslips on record that he is aware of.
Smith inspects between 60 and 70 properties in Sunbury and 17 establishments in Northumberland.
Smith said she kept the records at home because it was easier for her to review them if she needed to go on a call back to an establishment. She does file reports from all of her investigations to the state, but because they are from a private inspector they don’t appear in the database as fast as reports from the state’s agents, she said.
As per third-class city code, Sunbury is required to have a health inspector, Reichner said. According to the Department of Agriculture — the state body in charge of health inspections — private inspectors are not required to report inspection results, but it is recommended. By state law, the Department of Agriculture requires all eating and drinking establishments to be inspected once per year, but inspectors can go back several more times in that year if complaints are received, or if the initial inspection was not passed, according to the department’s website.
Smith said $100 is paid to the city for each of her inspections. If Smith needs to return and check for minor violations there is no charge. If the visit requires a third inspection there is an additional $100 fee.
Ocker said the city and Northumberland share the cost of a computer for Smith to work on but Reichner said he was unaware the city paid any money toward it.
"There is a lot I didn't know about what was going on here," he said. "Now we are going to make sure this gets changed."