Todd: Inspections not what they seem

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When the Mine Safety and Health Administration presented nearly 100 citations and orders to Revenue-Virginius mine operator Star Mine Operations, none of these citations related to the tragic incident in November that left two employees dead and sent nearly two dozen to area hospitals. News reports pounced on the recent citations made during investigation of the incident.
One news report suggested a link to one citation for poor ventilation in the mine as being the cause of the deaths. The citation, however, didn't specify where within the mine the poor ventilation was cited, nor when it occurred or the degree to which it occurred.
Making that leap, or suggesting it, was extraordinary, to say the least.
I asked a local restaurant owner recently, one who always achieves high marks during inspections, if his restaurant ever passes an inspection without being cited for an infraction. "Never," was the answer.
There is always something the restaurant inspector can find. Always. He attributed it to the scores and scores of rules and regulations and subsequent interpretations of those. Add in the high probability that a restaurant inspector appears to only be doing a good job when he or she inspects and cites, no restaurant ever gets a perfect score.
Think restaurants have scores and scores of rules and regulations? Imagine the checklist when it comes to a mine and a federal inspector. As far as MSHA finding nearly 100 infractions in its ongoing investigation, it's plausible that when catastrophic events occur, the oversight agency is going to find more violations because it is doing a more thorough investigation.
Did something go terribly wrong the morning of Nov. 17? Absolutely. We have two dead. But until a final report of culpability is issued from MSHA, we shouldn't be so quick to connect any dots and suggest blame.

Everybody wants to know who runs the post office lately. This question comes up daily, but only in Ridgway.
We're certainly concerned. We pay area post offices thousands of dollars a year to deliver our products. Between Telluride, Norwood, Ouray and Ridgway, our San Juan Shopper generates quite a bit of business for the U.S. government's snail mail business.
The Ouray County Plaindealer, too, is no slouch when it comes to bringing home the bacon. We pay handsomely for our papers to be delivered.
And, for the most part, they are delivered in the same fashion they have been for years.
We take them to the Ouray and Ridgway post offices on Thursday mornings, as has been the practice for years, and both locales have traditionally had them in your boxes by noon Thursdays. Lately, however, that's not the case in Ridgway.
But if you get your mail in Ridgway, that's no surprise to you.
At first, when our paper started appearing in boxes and along rural routes in less timely fashion, subscribers would call us and wonder what we were up to. Why all of the sudden is the paper late?
I worked for a free paper once. You know, the kind that just shows up in stacks and waits and hopes for someone to pick them up. In all the time I worked there, no one ever called when the paper was "late" and complained that it wasn't there — wherever "there" should be.
But paid papers? Break the routine and you might as well have cut someone's water off to their house.
Every little glitch, our phone rings. Lately, it's been a chorus of rings. And walk-ins. All from Ridgway.
But we're just one case. Town Manager Jen Coates stated that the Ridgway Marshal's office had received complaints of lost packages at the Ridgway post office. And Town Councilor Rick Weaver mentioned he heard Ridgway residents are having to conduct postal business in Ouray and Montrose.
Plenty are up in arms over the service in Ridgway, but no one wants to attach a name to a complaint for fear.
That's right, fear. We're now dealing with the U.S. Postal Service on a basis of fear. Fear that our letters won't be sent. Fear that things will be lost. Fear that if you complain about the service, they know who you are because your name is on everything that is yours.
And, even though your U.S. Postal Service lost $740 million in the third quarter, it still has a chain of command.
The district manager for the Ridgway post office is Murray Johnson. His email is murray.a.johnson@usps.gov.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at 970-325-2838 or atodd@ouraynews.com.