Summit County Health Department faces rising cost of services
The Summit County Health Department’s proposed fee schedule for 2018 reflects about a 14 percent hike for most services, according to Phil Bondurant, director of environmental health.
Every three years, staffers evaluate the Health Department’s fee schedule and suggest adjustments based on the services that are being provided. The Board of Health reviewed the fees during a Dec. 4 meeting.
The Health Department issued a 30-day formal notice and comment period on Dec. 5 for the public to review the fee changes, which are based on the response time for action. The deadline to provide input is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5. Public comments will also be taken during the Jan. 8 Board of Health meeting beginning at 4 p.m.
The Health Department oversees pubilc and environmental health services, such as food and drinking water safety, immunizations and emergency preparedness. The Health Department is responsible for restaurant inspections and permitting for businesses and events.
Bondurant said he understands that the timing of the fee schedule review is “terrible” because it comes on the heels of the recent approval of a property tax increase. The Summit County Council unanimously approved a significant hike for property taxes on Dec. 13.
“To be honest, we had set our three-year mark before the county went down this path,” he said. “Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse. But, this schedule will be set in stone for the next three years.”
Significant increases are proposed for fees under the following programs: wastewater, recreational, mass gatherings, daycare and body art. Other areas where fees may vary for a specific permit include water lab and tanning. Bondurant said all nine programs are subject to about a 14 percent increase.
Daycares and mass gatherings are required to be inspected by Utah state code. Bondurant said the new proposed fee covers the cost of inspection, including administrative work.
“Unfortunately, some programs are severely underfunded and the new fees represent actual costs of conducting those inspections,” he said. “One such example is mass gatherings where 95 percent of these events require an inspection after hours, on weekends or holidays. This presents an additional cost to put these employees in the field when overtime is required.”
Some of the proposed fees under the food program may go up about 12 percent. A yearly permit for a Risk 1 restaurant, such as a coffee shop, would be $120, an increase of $20. Risk classification is based on many factors, including whether or not a facility is temporary or permanent and the establishment’s seating capacity.
A yearly permit for a Risk 3 restaurant, which handles storing and cooking raw food, would become $355. It is currently $300.
To come up with the new fees, Bondurant said staff members reviewed the prices other counties charge for similar services. He added, “We want to make sure we are doing what’s right and what’s responsible.”
Some fees will actually be decreasing under the new fee schedule, Bondurant said, such as the dogs-on-patio variance. The variance enables restaurants to allow dogs on their patios. He said the permit was originally $300 for a less than two hour inspection, which includes a site assessment and canine hazard plan.
If approved, restaurant owners would now be charged $275 for the one-year variance and $125 every year after.
Another area where fees for permits are decreasing is for body art services, such as tattoos and piercings. A permit is currently $200, but will be lowered to $120.
However, under the same category, a temporary permit for body art events for microblading training will significantly increase. The Health Department is currently charging $130 for a temporary permit and is suggesting raising that to $315.
“After having them for the last two years, we realize they are severely under representative of the time spent by the county verifying the event and space,” he said. “It takes about four hours to get everything needed.”
Rich Bullough, Health Department director, justified the new fees. He said the Health Department completed a thorough evaluation of the actual costs to provide the services for which the fees are being assessed.
“These proposed fees are based on covering the actual costs of those services only, and do not generate revenues above those costs,” he said. “The proposed fees will allow us to continue to provide these services at the level necessary to protect the health and safety of our communities, residents and visitors.”
If approved, the fees will go into effect Feb. 1. Active permit holders will pay the current permit fees to operate in 2018. However, new establishments or those who are late on payments will be subject to the new fees after Feb. 1.
The proposed fee changes are available on the Health Department website at http://summitcountyhealth.org/public-announcements/30-day-comment-period-2018-fee-schedule/. Comments can be submitted to the Health Department via mail or email, but must be postmarked by 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 5.
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