Old Junior/Senior High Building in Ellsworth closed by Pierce County (Mid-States was operating without state license for nine months)
The Pierce County Department of Health has ordered the old Ellsworth Senior/Junior High building closed Thursday and deemed non-occupancy status after FDA officials and U.S. Marshals seized contaminated foodstuffs from the building Tuesday.
"We have received public health complaints about the building and we are in the process of conducting and investigation," Sue Galoff of the Pierce County Health Department said. "This investigation will determine whether a legal process is deemed necessary if there are violations of the public health code."
It was also learned today that Mid-States Closeouts was operating without a state license for the past nine months.
The Ellsworth Police Department accompanied county health officials to post the no occupancy signs according to police chief Greg Place.
The Department was present acting as security as federal marshals and FDA officials seized 1,500 cases of human and animal food items weighing 16 tons that was stored in building, now known as Mid-States Closeouts, Tuesday. This was done after inspections in both November and December found evidence of rodent infestation in the building.
Place said that the police department had been receiving complaints from village officials and from citizens about garbage at the site and unused semi-trailers with open doors.
The FDA said in a press release that the health violations at Mid-States are "widespread and and significant".
The owner of Mid-States Closeouts, Mark Reisdorf, in a phone interview Thursday said that officials with the State of Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection had told him not to move the food items, which he said were snack foods and candy. He accused the FDA of being unwilling to work with the state or with him on this matter.
"I told the FDA repeatedly that I wanted to move this stuff out of the building but that I couldn't move it," Reisdorf said. "They really put me through a lot of rigamarole about this and they've been very uncooperative."
Reisdorf said some of the foodstuff were items Mid-States was warehousing and he believed other cases were left over from the old Ames Dinner Theater that had occupied the building before Mid-States.
"It was bad stuff and certainly we didn't want it around. We wanted to get rid of it." Reisdorf said.
Dana Gilson, spokesperson for DATCP, said that the FDA did ask them to put a four-week hold order on the food items due to an investigation they were conducting on the facility, which they alone have the jurisdiction to do.
Gilson also said that Mid-States was operating without a state license for the past nine months. She said that Mid-States had passed a state inspection in April when Reisdorf applied for the license. But the check for the license fee had bounced and no license was issued. However, local inspectors out the DATCP's Eau Claire office were not informed of this.
"The inspectors in his area were not notified," Gilson said. "Clearly and inexcusably there was a hole in our license process."
Reisdorf said he was unaware his license was not approved.