Health board mulls raising food inspection fees

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EPHRATA — The Grant County Board of Health is considering the possibility of raising food permit fees county-wide in order to cover the costs of their food safety inspection program.

At a regular meeting on Wednesday, the Health District’s board of directors looked at the fees charged to temporary food vendors, anyone who serves food for up to seven days at short term events like the Grant County Fair, which currently only cover 59 percent of the program’s cost.

“This program has always struggled to break even,” said Theresa Adkinson, health district administrator. “Our community is growing, and we’ve been seeing the workload increase with more and more festivals.”

According to Jon Ness, the district’s environmental health manager, Grant County appears to charge significantly less, and has a much more complex fee schedule, for temporary food permits than most surrounding counties.

It makes comparison difficult, Ness explained, but most other counties try to cover 100 percent of the cost of doing food inspections.

For example, a commercial food vendor with a high-risk license — serving hamburgers, for example — currently pays $80 for a four-day food license and $106 for a week-long license. To cover 100 percent of the program costs, the four-day license would need to cost $113 and the week-long license $150.

The health district would continue to keep non-profit fees at half that charged of commercial operations.

“Some of the non-profits at the fair have pretty light margins,” said county commissioner and board member Richard Stevens.

The board made no decisions about temporary permit fees, but would look at a revised fee structure at its next meeting.

“I feel strongly that fees should cover the cost,” said David Curnel, who represents Moses Lake on the health board. “They should not be more, but it should pay for itself.”

“It just seems reasonable,” he added.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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