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City may sink snowballs' chances

Unless 12-year-old Ben Poole gets a sink with hot and cold running water in the small wooden shed where he sells flavored ice, his budding snowball business could be headed down the drain.

Local health officials have told Ben to stop selling snowballs from his 4- by 8-foot stand here until the sink, which is required under the Maryland health code, is installed.

But Bruce Poole, Ben's father, says the stand stays open the way it is.

"Some of the laws are so goofy you have the right to challenge them," Poole said. "That's what makes America great."

Under the state health code, a snowball stand is classified as a commercial food business. And like all restaurants and carryout food stands, Ben's shed in a parking lot off Market Street should have two sinks where workers can clean their hands and utensils, as well as a restroom for employee use.

County health officials agreed to relax the latter requirement after the Pooles pointed out that Ben is allowed to use a restroom inside the beauty salon where his mother works a few feet from the snowball stand.

Edward Potez, director of the County Department of Environmental Health, said he was willing to work with the Pooles to help them comply with the health code. But he said he must insist that at least one sink be installed for reasons of public safety.

"You got to be able to wash your hands," he said. "I stand on that. I can't say "no' to that regulation."

Unless the sink is put in and a water supply provided for the stand, Potez said, the county Health Department will continue to refuse to issue the Pooles a license to sell the snowballs.

Last week health officials told Poole, who built the stand for Ben and sometimes helps him run it, that it must be closed until the requirements are met. So far, Poole has refused and could face criminal penalties of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000, as well as civil penalties of up to $5,000 for operating a food stand without a license.

Poole, who works for Maryland's State Highway Administration in Salisbury and says he is familiar with government bureaucracy, said he believes the regulations are unfair. "This isn't a McDonald's," he said. "I don't think the law is written for a snowball stand."