TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Health Department did not inspect the Spring of Tampa Bay for six years even though state rules that govern domestic violence shelters require an annual review.
Brian Miller, environmental administrator for the county health department, said the agency stopped inspecting the Tampa shelter in 2010, when the Florida Legislature passed a law that put an end to many safety checks to cut costs.
Under the health department's interpretation, the law ended local inspections of living quarters in facilities that used to be regularly reviewed. But food service inspections are still required if they feed their residents.
Miller said his agency didn't inspect the Spring because they were under the impression that residents prepared their own food.
However, the Spring's website advertises a cafeteria that "serves three meals a day plus snacks." In one video, an actor/resident is served food from a cafeteria worker.
After reviewing the video, Hillsborough County health officials said they determined that inspections are required. On Wednesday, the Spring had its first inspection since 2009, county health department spokesman Steve Huard said.
Mindy Murphy, chief executive officer of the Spring, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which oversees the state's 42 domestic violence shelters and reviews them annually, would not say why they never cited the Spring for not having an inspection all those years, or why it didn't check.
Two years after the state law changed, a Spring resident emailed Gov. Rick Scott that the shelter was dirty and had roaches "everywhere, roaches in the food."
"Since I been at the shelter it feel like I been with my abuser," she wrote.
At the time, the domestic violence coalition contacted Spring officials about the allegations, according to a memo obtained through a public records request. The Spring sent back photos that demonstrated a clean facility. The coalition said no further action was necessary.
While health inspectors hadn't been inside the Spring since 2009, Tampa fire inspectors review the shelter every three years.
During a March review, they found abandoned wires that were unsecured, blocked sprinklers, uncovered electrical panels and damaged switch boards.
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