By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Walmart isn’t the only one waiting for the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing on its Monticello grocery store.
Indeed, the entire county and many a national observer are interested in seeing whether the independent hearing officer will recommend revoking the Monticello Walmart’s food processing license after the store failed five consecutive food safety inspections.
Wednesday’s hearing lasted much of the day in Albany but didn’t produce a report with recommendations, which the officer is expected to give within the next month or two, according to NYS Dept. of Ag and Markets spokeswoman Jessica Ziehm.
“The hearing officer has four to six weeks to provide that report; however, it may be provided earlier,” said Ziehm. “Once the [Ag and Markets] commissioner receives the hearing officer’s report, it is the decision of the commissioner to revoke the food processing license or not.
“If the license is revoked,” she continued, “the food processing areas of the establishment would have to shut down immediately. The non-processing areas of the food store such as the aisles, dairy and frozen sections would still be allowed to operate. The department store aspect of the business would also be allowed to operate.
“The store would continue to be inspected by the department for food safety and sanitation,” said Ziehm. “If the store failed its next (sixth) inspection, the department could seek an injunction to close the entire retail food operation.”
She added that if the food processing license is revoked, Walmart would have to reapply to the department and pass another inspection.
But if the state opted not to revoke the license, Walmart could continue to operate as it does now.
"We are cooperating fully and will continue to work with the state,” a Walmart spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our customers can feel assured we're taking this seriously and are committed to providing safe, quality food. We have dedicated resources to help ensure the store exceeds the state’s expectations while maintaining the high standards we set for all of our stores.”