By Mila Besich Lira
Copper Area News
This summer many restaurant and other food establishments received a notification from Pinal County Environmental Health Department that the fees for the annual health and safety permits to operate their establishments would go up. In some cases the proposed fees were almost a 600 percent increase from the current fees. One area of concern to many organizations in Pinal County was an increased fee for non profits and temporary events. Currently temporary event vendors pay $25 for each event. The proposed plan would have increased the fees to $196 if the event permit was submitted two weeks in advance and $246 for permits submitted less than two weeks in advance of the event.
Restaurant owners and event planners throughout the county attended the work session with the Board of Supervisors in August to express their concerns about the increases. If the proposed fees were to be approved, the new pricing would be the equivalent of increasing a cup of coffee from one dollar to six dollars.
The County Health Department staff reported that the permit prices were determined after analyzing the cost of processing the permits and conducting the necessary inspections. The department’s original plan would have increased the permit fees to allow the process to become self sustaining and not require funding from the County’s general fund. After much discussion and comments from the public, staff returned to the drawing board to come up with other permit fees. The proposed plans will be presented to the board of supervisors for approval on Wednesday, October 30, 2013.
The health department staff has proposed three other fee schedules – all three fee schedules eliminate the permit fee for temporary events and food banks. The temporary event fees will be waived for both non profit and for profit organizations. One plan would allow for $200,000 from the general fund to be allocated to the department, the second plan would allow for $300,000 from the general fund to subsidize the department and the third plan would subsidize the department with 50 percent of the funds needed, which would amount to $400,000.
The County Health Department plans on meeting with temporary event organizers to discuss how the county can improve the event permitting process. Under the original plan presented a level three eating and drinking establishment would be $813 a year for their permit. If one of the other plans are accepted by the board that proposed fee will be reduced to $609 in option B, $506 in Option C and $406 in Option D.