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Health department wants to raise fees

Restaurant, septic system inspections could cost 10 percent more with change

MORRISON – If you own an eatery, the Whiteside County Health Department wants to charge 10 percent more to make sure you clean it like you mean it.

The department wants to raise fees for restaurant and septic system inspections, which have not been raised in 3 years.

The county’s health and social services committee voted June 5 to pass on the proposal to the executive committee, which voted June 11 to pass it on to the full county board. The board will vote today on whether to lay over the motion for a month so members may consider it before voting on it July 16.

Restaurants are charged inspection fees based on their seating capacity, number of cash registers and other factors. The fee for a restaurant that can seat up to 99 people and has fewer than two registers would increase from $170 to $190 if the hikes are approved.

But the county’s fees for most categories of restaurants still would remain well below those charged by surrounding counties.

A chart on the fees is available in the meeting packet online at whiteside.org, under “documents and forms” and then under “meeting agendas/approved meeting minutes” or at City Hall.

A resident who wants to install a septic system now pays $115, but would pay $130 if the new rates are approved.

The health department, which inspects 390 permitted food establishments, has been having a hard time keeping up with expenses.

The environmental health program’s fund, which funds gasoline, trucks and staff salaries for inspections, had a deficit of $38,043 in fiscal year 2012, which ended Nov. 30. The fund had revenue of $256,641 and expenses of $294,684.

The program has had an increase to its operating costs, said Gene Johnston, director of environmental health.

“We have to drive everywhere we go,” he said. “The cost of gasoline has gone up. Our staff size is the same. We have three employees who do inspections.”

The fee hikes, if approved, would bring in $8,000 more a year, said Beth Fiorini, public health administrator.

Fiorini would like to raise the fees again 3 years from now. The department, which has reserve funds, has been getting by through shifting funds, she said.

Eateries must be inspected before they first open, and then at least once a year. They are inspected again if there are complaints or issues found during routine inspections.

Septic systems must be inspected when they are newly installed or cleaned.

The health department is mainly funded by fees and grants, Fiorini said. It receives appropriations from the county from the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax fund and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

To attend

The Whiteside County Board meets at 6:30 tonight at Whiteside County Law Enforcement Center, 200 E. Knox St. in Morrison.

The agenda is available at whiteside.org, under "documents and forms."

Contact County Administrator Joel Horn at WCAdmin@whiteside.org or 815-772-5100 for more information.

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