Summit County Health Board approves fee requests
Summit County restaurant owners will soon be able to apply for a permit variance to allow paws on their patios, but it’s going to cost them.
The Summit County Board of Health approved the requested fee schedule for the upcoming year on Monday night, including a new dogs-on-patio variance fee.
The board debated for almost an hour about what to charge restaurant owners and ultimately decided on a flat fee of $300 for a one-year dogs-on-patio variance, regardless of the establishment’s risk classification. Risk classification is based on many factors, including whether or not a facility is temporary or permanent and the establishment’s seating capacity.
Phil Bondurant, director of environmental health, said he thinks the variance fee is fair and will cover the Health Department’s additional costs for inspection.
"Based on the feedback we received in calls and meetings we had with restaurant owners, they said the fee would be worthwhile whatever the cost," Bondurant said.
Board members debated the validity of charging restaurant owners that price, in addition to the regular food inspection fee.
Richard Bullough, Summit County Health Officer, said the Health Department doesn’t want to give the impression that the fee is an attempt to derail restaurants from purchasing the variance, but instead will cover the overhead of performing the additional inspections that will be required.
"I just think this will be expensive and I think we will find this is not a cheap variance," Bullough said.
Board members emphasized that the fees are going to be "a moving target" and will be adjusted accordingly over time.
"I personally believe when we compare what we are proposing, we will find a speed bump," Bullough said. "This is more expensive than we think and I think that it is very important that if the board passes a Code of Health we have to implement that code. But we can’t absorb new services without them paying for themselves."
Board member Liza Simpson argued for the justifications of the increases.
"We need to be able to come back and say we’ve tracked this using our new methodology and this is what it is costing," Simpson said.
The Health Department opened a 30-day formal notice and comment period on Tuesday for the public to review the fee changes, which are based on the response time for action.
Other fee changes include adjustments to waste water, the pool/spa program, daycare inspections and body art. The Health Department also added a category imposing a fee on mass gatherings.
Some of the proposed fees under waste water will go up, such as the requested fee amount of $300 for a septic permit, which is currently $200. The Health Department also added a $365 fee for a pressurized septic system and $65 for assistance for onsite septic installation. The increases are intended to better align Summit County with the fees of other counties in the area.
Significant increases were also included under the pool/spa program for a yearly permit and for pool plan reviews. The current fee is $50 for the first permit and $10 for any additional permits, but the Board is requesting to raise that amount to a flat fee of $130 per pool/spa. Pool plan review, which currently doesn’t have a fee, would be $265 under the new fee schedule.
Board of Health member and Summit County Councilwoman Kim Carson said it is the council’s belief that fees should cover the cost of whatever is behind them.
"I think there is sound justification for these fees and I think it is a good start," Carson said.
The proposed fee changes are available on the Health Department website at http://bit.ly/1vLSRTt. Comments can be submitted to the Health Department via mail or email, but must be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Jan. 2.
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