Laramie’s restaurants, pools and tattoo parlors could soon be subject to re-inspection fees, Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said Tuesday during a Laramie City Council work session.
“In all our time on the board, these fees have never been in place,” Laramie Board of Health Chair David Milam told the council. “Our goal in coming here today is to feel out your thoughts about these fees.”
Because of a $2.7 million deficit in state-provided funding for the city during the 2017-2018 biennium, Jordan suggested cutting Laramie’s health inspector position this spring. By state statute, the Wyoming Board of Health would then be required to conduct health inspections in Laramie, but previous correspondence with the state board revealed the state inspectors would be hard-pressed to provide frequent inspections and re-inspections, Jordan said.
During the council’s 2017 supplemental budget session, the council voted to keep Laramie’s health inspector position with the caveat it would be funded in part by installing a new fee schedule for inspections and re-inspections.
“The reason why tonight’s discussion is important is the state statute says only the (Laramie) Board of Health can set these fees,” Laramie City Attorney Bob Southard said. “Then, they have to be approved by council.” Once set by the board, Southard said the fees would be subject to a 45-day public feedback process before coming to the council for approval. If the council decided to change the fees at that point, the 45-day process would need to start over, he added.
During the work session, the board and council discussed a possible fee schedule, but no action was taken to approve the fees.
Milam said the board would use the council’s feedback to vote on the proposed fee schedule today, during the board’s regular meeting at 6:15 p.m. in the City Hall Annex, 405 Grand Ave.
While the proposed fee schedule for annual inspections ranged from $50 to $150, all re-inspection fees were proposed to be $150.
“If you do the math and break it down over a 12-month period, we found the fees more than reasonable,” Milam said. “In order to help bring the public safety of this community up, but also to bring quality up, we felt a higher re-inspection fee … was something that needed to be in place.”
By installing a higher re-inspection fee and providing a consequence for health code infractions, the health inspector’s work load would be decreased, allowing the position to be more conducive with the part-time wages budgeted for the position, board member Beth Young-Jones said.
“It looks like as it shakes out, it’s a 20-hour-a-week position,” Young-Jones said. “When you look at the fee structure, you’ll notice this will probably prevent additional violations. Where there is a $150 re-inspection fee, I believe that will help re-enforce what has been recommended.”
When the city employed a full-time health inspector, Milam said no inspection fees were implemented, and the inspector spent most of her time repeatedly re-inspecting a small number of businesses because health code violations were consistently not addressed by the business owners.
“The challenge when you look at these (fees) out of the blue is we’re going from zero,” Milam said. “Anytime you go from zero to a standard, there is going to be a little dismay in the industry.”
While the proposed fee schedule could help fund the health inspector position, board member Aaron Taff said the funding might only cover about half of the position’s cost to the city, which would be responsible for providing the remainder.
“When we talked about this during the budget, we did not talk about doing this to recover 100 percent (of the position’s cost),” Councilor Bryan Shuster said. “I don’t think in anything we do we expect to recover 100 percent.”