Paying the Tab for Restaurant Inspections
Many restaurant owners KOMU talked with had not heard of the proposal and complained the fee could be a big burden on small businesses.
Health regulators want Boone County restaurants to pay for some of the annual inspection bill.
"The cost of operation, gas costs and personnel costs, it's becoming pretty hard for us to service and find room in the budgeting process for it," said Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre.
Now, taxpayers pick up the tab for restaurant health inspections.
"I believe we're paying our taxes and we're paying into the general fund, and we're paying into that to support that system," said restaurant owner Cindy Downing. "And it just seems like we're being asked to pay in again."
Annual fees would range from $125-to $325, and would cover about three-fourths of the $41,000 yearly health inspection budget.
"It's a normal cost of business for most businesses around, so it's not unusual to have an inspection fee for food service businesses," said Schnarre.
Columbia restaurants already pay a fee based on the number of customers and the number of meals.
Restaurants outside Columbia would pay based on potential health risks. Restaurants like Downing's would be near the top of the scale.
"We're one of the more exposed restaurants where we cook from scratch, we cook everything from scratch," she said. "We make some of our own preserves and whatnot and make our pies from scratch here."
Small food vendors, like those at fairs and fundraisers, would be exempt from the fees, which officials hope to start charging Jan. 1, 2007.
However, the next step is scheduling meetings to get reaction from restaurant owners and the public.