Bill Proposed To Increase Cost Of Health Inspections

Carry-out, Restaurant Owners To Feel The Pinch

February 23, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff writer

Hard times have struck Priscilla Struck's Edgewood sub and pizza shop. The economy has kept customers at home and sales sluggish.

And now, with a bill before the County Council that would double the costof most mandatory Health Department inspections, Struck said that means more trying times could be ahead. Some charges would more than double under the bill.

"For God's sake, every time I turn around they're charging more,"said Struck, owner of Kouneli's Pizza on Edgewood Road.

"I don't know why they have to double it. Let them go to the governor."

Thebill is an emergency effort to raise money for the county Health Department, whose budget has been cut 25 percent by the state to $3.4 million, said Thomas M. Thomas, the county health officer.

The increased fees would bring in $30,000 to $35,000 additional money to finance the $200,000-a-year health inspection program, Thomas said.

Theadded revenue would save at least one of the two Health Department inspector jobs at risk of being cut.

The department has four peoplewho inspect restaurants, convenience food stores and carry-outs throughout the county.

Under the bill, health inspection fees would range from $25 -- up from $10 -- for a gas station convenience store that sells pre-packaged food to $120 -- up from $60 -- for a restaurantthat seats more than 60 people.

It would cost $100 to have countyinspectors review plans for renovations and additions, a service which now is free.

The bill is scheduled for public discussion March 17 before the County Council.

"It seemed like a reasonable thing to do," said Theresa Pierno, one of three council members who introduced the bill.

"What has happened is the Health Department's budget has been cut drastically. The fees that were charged -- and in some cases, the fees that weren't being charged -- were not covering what was needed to be done."

But business owners like Struck see the issue differently.

It's hard enough to pay property, quarterly and FICA taxes and to have to pay more for health inspections would be a hardship, said Struck.

She said she isn't doing three-quarters of the business she did previously.

She would pay $80 to have her eatery inspected under the bill. She pays $40 now.

"I don't do that much in sales. I've dropped off. All year long, I pay a lot of money on taxes," she said.

But Paul Hiester, head chef of the Crazy Swede in Havre de Grace, said any amount of money is worth it to protect people's health. He said he's been in some restaurants that were so poorly kept that he wouldn't eat there.

"I hate to spend that much money, but the restaurants need to be inspected at any amount of money,"said Hiester, whose restaurant would be charged $120 for inspectionsunder the bill, up from $60.

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