Originally published April 14, 2019 at 02:19p.m.

Updated April 15, 2019 at 07:47a.m.

After conducting a time and cost study, Yavapai County Community Health Services (CHS) is looking at increasing its environmental health fees received for inspections and reviews of restaurant, hotel, school, and other kitchens.

Cecil Newell, Public Health Protection Section manager, described why CHS is proposing a fee increase to the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors at its April 3 board meeting.

The fee structure is based on what it costs county employees to manage the inspection program, Newell said. Entities needing inspections pay fees to cover the cost; no taxpayer money is used. “The fees we charge the license holders is what it costs us to do business,” he said.

Schools’ fees are slated to increase from $300 to $462, and restaurants with more than 100 seats will increase from $400 to $540. For miscellaneous non-food and non-swimming pool businesses, the fee more than doubles from $230 to $470.

Newell explained how the time/cost study determined the hourly rate that sets the fees in a phone call April 10. In 2007, an hourly increase of nearly 4 percent put the hourly rate at $69. In 2015, the county raised it to $79 per hour; the following year, the fee was $91 per hour.

In December, the hourly rate was figured at $101 per hour, but Newell said the department had some retirements and staff made some efficiency changes, and the rate dropped to $94 per hour. Right now, there are no plans to replace the retired employees.

The time/cost study measured the inspectors’ time, and what was considered billable and non-billable hours. Included in billable hours are when the inspector has to return phone calls, type reports, and answer emails. Those hours were spread out to all license holders. Then the county figured out how much time was needed at which type of facility. That time is put together to derive an hourly rate according to billable hours.

Newell said some concerned restaurant owners attended a Board of Health meeting, and he met with some individually. One tagged along during a time/cost study visit.

“At that time, he understood why the fee increase was necessary, and I have not heard anything back from him,” Newell said. “He didn’t like the increase, but he understood why.”

Supervisor Jack Smith asked about waiving the inspection fees schools pay. School fees increased from $300 to $462 per year. Newell said the fees do not cover the cost of the program. If waived, the money would have to come from the general fund, County Administrator Phil Bourdon said.

“No schools have failed inspection, but some have issues,” Newell said.

Supervisors have scheduled a second hearing at the 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, Board of Supervisors meeting in Cottonwood at the Verde Valley Complex, 10 S. 6th Street, Cottonwood. If approved, it will take effect July 1.

In other action, the board will consider:

  • Approving use of the courthouse plaza and sale of alcohol April 27 for the Whiskey Off-Road Bike Race.

  • Approve splitting costs for cultural and environmental assessments for a land exchange of 369 acres in Yavapai County for 80 acres in Coconino County.

  • Approve four additional pickleball courts at Pioneer Park.

Follow Sue Tone on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at stone@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.