SPOKANE, Wash. — More than $7 million has already been collected across Washington state in 2021 from businesses in violation of COVID-19 guidelines and mask mandates.
Based on numbers from Washington State Labor & Industries as of the first week of May, Spokane County ranks second-highest among all Washington counties in total fines from citations from January to March 2021.
Bars, coffee shops and casinos may not seem like a surprise as possible places to see COVID-19 violations over the past 14 months, but other businesses that saw fines in January through March in Spokane County included long-term care facilities, hospitals, cabinetmakers and construction companies. A New Creation General Contracting, a small, family-owned contracting company based out of Spokane, is near the top of the list.
The company’s owner, Nik Ehli, describes his small, eight-to-16-person crew as “a great group of guys, just having a lot of fun, working hard, and making a little money doing so.
A New Creation helps find work for people who are in substance abuse recovery, to help give them a head-start on a new life by teaching them the trades of construction and remodeling.
“They’re great guys, hard-working guys, and they’ve got a lot of heart for doing great work,” Ehli said. “I’m in recovery myself and I know how important it is to find something you can apply yourself to.”
In January, a crew of six people with A New Creation were repairing the roof of a local woman to help her get through the bitter cold winter months. Ehli admitted it wasn’t even a job he was originally scheduled to take, but his heart went out to the woman and he took it.
But as Ehli’s crew worked on the roof, L&I representatives arrived on site after receiving a complaint from a nearby neighbor that none of the crew members were wearing masks. That was the first of 12 violations handed down by the state — the largest number of violations on any single inspection day of any business in Spokane County from January through March.
“He got us for not having hand sanitizer on each person, not having a hand-washing station available on the job site — this is a two, maybe three-day job —and not sanitizing the tools when they're passed from one coworker to another,” said Ehli, who said he was most surprised by the mask issue because of the work conditions that day.
Ehli also said that the entire crew had already recovered from COVID-19 themselves and that their work conditions that day kept them well-spaced apart from each other.
The fines handed down to Ehli’s business totaled $7,200, a sizeable chunk for a business of A New Creation’s size.
“For this little company to get hit that hard, it was pretty painstaking for us," Ehli said.
Ehli paid the fine rather than appealing any citation, saying the last thing he wanted to do was ruffle anyone’s feathers or make anyone feel like they were in harms way.
"L&I and their notebooks can be pretty intimidating for a guy like me,” said Ehli, joined by his family. “I just did what I could to pay the fines and we worked through it."
Other businesses listed by Washington L&I for COVID-19 violations include:
- ACME Excavating & Sewer Boring (Spokane) ($4,200 in penalties)
- Angus Meats Inc (Spokane) ($1,200 in penalties)
- Blue Falls USA LLC (Spokane Valley) ($1,800 in penalties)
- Bonnett Construction Inc (Spokane) ($1,500 in penalties)
- Cole's Coffee Shop Inc (Spokane Valley) ($126,207 in penalties)
- Commander Construction LLC (Spokane) ($1,800 in penalties)
- CW Products (Spokane Valley) ($2,400 in penalties)
- DR Horton (Spokane) ($5,500 in penalties)
- Fairwood Retirement Services (Spokane) ($4,800 in penalties)
- Focused Behavior Solutions LLC (Spokane) ($1,800 in penalties)
- Hayford Village LLC (Cheney) ($4,500 in penalties)
- Huntwood Industries (Liberty Lake) ($6,000 in penalties)
- Kiev Market (Spokane Valley) ($900 in penalties)
- Lilac Lanes & Casino (Spokane) ($3,600 in penalties)
- Lydig Construction Inc (Spokane) ($2,100 in penalties)
- Overland Excavation Inc (Spokane Valley) ($3,600 in penalties)
- Palmer Construction (Spokane) ($4,500 in penalties)
- Premium Contruction (Spokane) ($2,700 in penalties)
- Renovacion Roofing LLC (Spokane) ($4,500 in penalties)
- Sacred Heart Medical Center (Spokane) ($4,200 in penalties)
- SRS Distribution Inc (Spokane) ($3,000 in penalties)
- Super 1 Foods (Spokane) ($2,700 in penalties)
- Surewood Custom Cabinets (Spokane) ($1,800 in penalties)
- Wright Construction Management (Spokane Valley) ($1,800 in penalties)