West Tisbury files complaint against Walter Smith Plumbing

State Road restaurant in West Tisbury has earned a reputation for fine food. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The West Tisbury building department will file a complaint with the state Division of Professional Licensure against Walter Smith Plumbing for work done without a permit at the State Road Restaurant.

Building inspector Ernest Mendenhall announced his decision at the West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting September 25. He said he wanted to be sure the selectmen agreed with his decision.

“We are submitting documentation and the state will investigate,” Mr. Mendenhall said. “We have no other way to penalize them except to file a complaint with the state. We wanted to be sure you concurred before we send it off.”

All three selectmen said they supported the decision. “We appoint you to make decisions in the best interests of the town and I firmly stand behind you in making those decisions,” selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said. “As far as I’m concerned you don’t have to come to us every time you make a decision.”

“The state usually puts a first-time offender on six months or a year of probation,” building inspector in training Joe Tierney said. He added, “The plumbing inspector is requiring them to remove all of the plumbing done without a permit where before we had just asked for capping.”

On August 21, selectmen voted to fine the owners $1,600 after learning that a basement storage area had been converted into a prep kitchen in violation of the restaurant’s special permit and in violation of the town’s plumbing and building codes. State Road Restaurant owner Jackson Kenworth admitted being in the wrong and apologized to the selectmen.

Plumber Robert “Spike” Smith stepped forward and told town officials he was responsible.

Mr. Smith, president of Walter Smith Plumbing told The Times this week, “I did the work myself. My company did not do the work. I know I was wrong for not pulling a permit and I have apologized to the selectmen and to the building department and to the town board of health.”

He said that in the 30 years he has been a plumber neither he nor his company has had a complaint filed against them. “Normally if there is a problem the plumbing inspector lets us know and we take care of it,” he said.

Asked why the department will file a complaint against Walter Smith plumbing rather than Mr. Smith as an individual, Mr. Tierney told The Times, “We feel there is no distinction between the company and the plumber.”

“This is the first time we have ever filed a complaint with the state for a plumbing violation,” Mr. Mendenhall said in a phone conversation with the Times. “It is the only course of action we have. The town has not empowered our office with the ability to sanction plumbers or electricians when they are in violation of the law.”