USA Flea Market closed in Pasco County, building deemed unsafe

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pasco County officials, a team of investigators, code enforcement officers and the fire marshal have closed USA Flea Market, located off of US-19.

Officials deemed the building unsafe with potentially deadly violations.

Code enforcement officer James Hunt called the hundreds of violations “the worst he’s seen in 40 years.”

Violations include problems with the fire sprinkler system, fire hydrants and fire alarm system, along with electrical wiring issues against fire codes, inadequate exits, propane tanks improperly stored, buildings built with no permits and flood zone violations.

Hunt went on to rattle off dozens of more problems.

“A large part of the structure held up by double two by fours, with a small cleat between them. Rafters that are split and are sagging, fire systems not working, not present, it’s just not safe all the way around,” he said.

County officials wasted no time closing the market by calling it a matter of life or death.

“In some instances, life threatening type violations, shock hazards, grounding hazards, people could lose their lives right away,” said Don Rosenthal, assistant county administrator for development services.

More than 70 vendors operate out of the flea market. They were just notified this morning that they had to get out.

“Everything I worked for is gone. Do I want to be on TV, crying? No. Do I want to look pitiful? No. Am I mad? Oh yeah,” said vendor Beth Russ.

Several vendors told News Channel 8 that the county dropped the ball by not keeping up with inspections.

“They haven’t helped maintain the place by coming in and inspecting it regularly, so it didn’t get in this shape,” said Russ.

County officials even admitted that they haven’t stayed on top of inspections.

“We hadn’t done a complete inspection of the entire property until April this year. Previous one before that was in 2009, 2006 before that,” said Karl Thompson, fire marshal.

County administrators say they’re now taking a more proactive approach with regulating violations. News Channel 8 was told that the public would learn about more violators soon, but that information wasn’t released immediately.

As for the USA flea market, they’re not allowed to operate until the hundreds of violations are fixed.

Pasco County administrators said they are working to place vendors elsewhere so they can still operate.

The general manager at the Oldsmar Flea Market reached out to News Channel 8. She said she will take as many vendors as she can accommodate. Theresa Pagano can be reached at 813-855-2587.

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