Health department proposing increased fees for certain plan reviews, licenses, inspections

The Cascade County City-County Board of Health voted unanimously during their Dec. 7 meeting to increase environmental health fees.

The environmental health division of the City-County Health Department doesn’t generate much revenue and has limitations on which services they can charge for at the county level, according to staff.

License fees are set by state law, while inspection fees for daycares and registration fees for cottage food purveyors are set by state departmental rules.

These fees don’t cover more than an hour’s work or the cost of travel in a county vehicle  at $1 per mile, to many of the local establishment’s the division works with.

The county can set health department fees for plan review and licensure, follow-up inspections, and septic review and permitting.

Fees associated with licensed establishments haven’t been increased since 2018 and fees associated with septic permitting haven’t increase since 2014, according to CCHD staff.

The county included a 25 percent fee increase for environmental health in the current budget, which began July 1 and runs through June 2023.

To develop the new fee schedules, CCHD staff considered the time spent on reviews and permitting activities, fees charged by other counties, and the 25 percent budgeted increase.

Staff proposed a $50 per hour fee that will be charged when time spent on the service exceed the base rate.

As an example, staff said if a risk category one retail food plan review, with a base $200 fee, takes more than four hours, then the department would charge the $50 hourly rate for time spent in excess of four hours.

The rate was based on the average staff pay, benefits and the cost of vehicle usage, general maintenance and supplies/equipment, according to CCHD staff.

CCHD staff proposed retail/wholesale plan review fees based on the risk category to better reflect time spent on those reviews.

The previous fee structure was based on the physical size of the facility, which doesn’t adequately cover the time spent in many cases, according to staff.

As an example, staff said that a risk category one convenience store may be large but if they only sell packaged foods with no processing onsite, plan review won’t take much time.

But a risk category three full-service restaurant may be small, but have complex cooking process, raw meats and large menus and take more time to evaluate, according to staff.

Staff also proposed changing the fees for temporary food permits to reflect a change in the review process to an annual review for setup and menus with a shorter process for subsequent events.

CCHD staff has been doing full reviews for each permit even if they use the same menu and setup for multiple events throughout the year, according to staff.

Other fees were increased by at least 25 percent to cover the approved budget. Staff rounded up to the nearest $25 to allow for easier hourly rate calculations, according to staff.

County Commissioners must also review and approve of the proposed new fees. Staff anticipates they’ll be on the agenda for one of the commission meetings in December and if approved, go in to effect Jan. 1, 2023.