Increases ahead for pool, restaurant inspection fees?
To help make up an $80,000 shortfall in the budget for the Fayette County Health Department, local residents may be paying more for their required annual swimming pool inspections and restaurants will pay more for health inspections.
But a health department official was unable to immediately convince the Fayette County Commission to adopt the fee increases after a detailed presentation Wednesday.
The Fayette County Commission was skeptical of the proposal brought forward by Richard Fehr, manager of the Environmental Health Division of the Fayette County Health Department.
He suggested that pool inspections increase from $100 currently to $225, and food service health inspections would increase from $200 to $325 for those with 50 seats or less, and from $300 to $425 for establishments with 51 seats or more.
The health department also is asking to increase its annual inspection fee for tourist accommodations from $150 to $275.
Fayette’s existing fees are well below the amount charged by nine other metro Atlanta counties, Fehr said. For example, Fayette’s current $100 annual pool inspection cost is well below the $200 mark in Gwinnett and Rockdale counties, $250 in Cobb, $280 in Newton and $300 or more in DeKalb, Clayton and Fulton counties.
Fayette’s fees were last raised some four years ago, Fehr said.
According to Fehr, the budget shortfall is largely due to the decrease in new home building, which formerly had been one of the health department’s largest sources of revenue.
Commissioner Robert Horgan, who sits on the county’s board of health, noted that there have been increased obligations forced by new regulations on restaurant inspections, and he didn’t think the county needed to pay more money toward the health department at this time.
But Commission Chairman Herb Frady questioned why the matter is being brought up some three months into the county’s budget year.
Commissioner Lee Hearn said he would need to see a “real justification” for the increased fees, because he wanted to avoid the significant increases proposed by Fehr’s presentation.
County Manager Jack Krakeel said when the county raises its fees, it works to make sure the new fees are covering the cost of the service, including staff time. Krakeel suggested such a review would be worthwhile for the health department.
Commissioner Steve Brown said he wished there was a way to fund improved technology for the health department to streamline the inspection process by using handheld computers, for example.