WATERTOWN. Douglas Lamont was surprised when, two weeks ago, on the first day of a farmers’ market in Watertown, a city code officer showed up to conduct a security check on his food truck.

He and his wife, Rhonda B., have never had to pass a city code check on their food truck in all the years they’ve been to the Greater Watertown Farmers’ and Crafts Market in the North Country.

He didn’t know why the law enforcement officer showed up out of the blue, and he didn’t understand why they needed him, even though the inspection was focused on fire safety.

At first, Mr. Lamont thought it was a scam and kicked the policeman out of the food truck.

“He raised security concerns,” Mr. Lamont said. “He came when we were very busy. He can trip, fall and start a fire.”

Kayla S. Perry, president of the Greater Watertown and North Country Chamber of Commerce, said she was unaware of the food truck security checks until she received an email from law enforcement two weeks before the May 25 farmers’ market opened.

On Wednesday, the chamber hosts a farmers’ market, which will last until October 5th.

It was the first time the food trucks had to be inspected at a farmers’ market, she said, adding that she forwarded the email to the food truck sellers.

But not all municipalities conduct inspections, she said.

Mr. LaMonte said he never saw the email until he found it in his junk mail folder.

Scott B. Gilbert, who owns Tug Hill Artisan Roasters with his wife Vanessa, also wondered why his coffee trailer had to be inspected. Two weeks ago, he went to a city council meeting to express his concern.

The food trucks only needed to go through the state Department of Health for inspections, mainly regarding the nutritional aspects of their business, the two businessmen said.

So they wondered if the city’s code enforcement inspections were a duplication of what the state health department is already doing.

City Code Enforcement Inspector Dana Aikins said that in 2020, the state’s building codes changed to food trucks.

He learned about the changes when he attended a training conference in Lake Placid with one of his employees. According to him, the changes are similar to what is required from restaurants for fire safety purposes.

“Essentially, these are mobile kitchens,” he said. “They can go anywhere. They can park anywhere.”

Ms Perry said she hopes the city and food truck suppliers will work together on the issue.

They must make it safe for merchants, their employees and the public, she stressed.

During inspections, two businessmen were told they needed fire extinguishers, so each bought one.

They also gave the code enforcement officer $20 to pay for the review. They asked for a receipt and still haven’t received one.

During the inspection, a law enforcement officer told Mr. Lamont that he needed to install an ANSUL fire suppression system in the truck’s kitchen hood.

Mr. Lamont said the installation of the ANSUL system would cost $15,000.

“If we need to get it, I’m gone,” he said, saying he won’t be coming to the farmers’ market anymore.

“We don’t make $15,000 a season.”

Another food supplier, Pink Taco, has a new truck, he said, so the truck was already equipped with one and doesn’t incur those costs.

Mr. Aikins admitted there was some confusion about the hood. On Wednesday afternoon, he finally got clarification from the state whether the cooker hoods would be “grandfathered” and allowed.

He finally heard from State Department officials who told him that the existing food trucks would have to comply with the new regulations.

That means Mr. Lamont will have to install a fire suppression system in the truck, Mr. Aikins said.

He plans to contact Chamber of Commerce officials and Mr. Lamont as soon as possible to let them know what he has learned.

He will also say that he will give Mr. Lamont some time to decide on his course of action.

But Mr Lamont criticized the state for its decision.

“You’re going through two years of COVID and you’re starting to come out of it and make money and be able to pay your bills,” he said. “Then they do this nonsense.”

The regulation does not apply to Tug Hill Artisan Roasters and the Johnny D food truck, which cooks food outside of the truck.

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