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County environmental health fee increases proposed


Pitt County Health Department Director Dr. John Morrow, left, and Board of Health Chairman Dr. Keith Ramsey discussed portions of the department's proposed 2018-19 budget at Tuesday's scheduled monthly board meeting.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fees for several services offered by Pitt County Environmental Health will go up in fiscal year 2018-19 if approved by the county commissioners along with the health department’s $11.57 million budget proposal, according to a presentation given to the Health Department board Tuesday by the division’s director.

Onsite wastewater system permits, water sampling services and plan review services fees are in line for the increases, environmental health director Mark Phelps told the board members.

The fee for a conventional wastewater system permit currently is $300, last adjusted in 2004, Phelps said. The fee includes lot evaluation, an improvement permit, construction authorization and an operation permit. The average total cost to the county for site visits, evaluation and inspection is $385, Phelps said. The average current fee of seven neighboring counties is $270, and the average fee for counties in the state comparable to Pitt is $437. Those counties’ pending fee hike proposals were not factored.

Phelps also said the N.C. state lab has increased fees charged to public health departments for sampling supplies, which will be reflected in county charges for local services. The coliform bacteria testing supplies will increase by 37 percent and the lead sampling supplies will increase by 19 percent, he said.  As a result, the proposed fee hike for coliform testing will go from $70 to $80, and the increase for lead testing will go from $85 to $90. 

Fees charged by the health department to review plans for restaurants, food stands, mobile food units and hotels also will face proposed increases in the budget, Phelps said. Examples of items the department must verify include, but are not limited to, adequate dry storage; adequate hot water supply; refrigeration requirements; cleanable/durable surfaces; lighting requirements; waste handling; and means for dishwashing and handwashing. The service includes a review of plans in-house, site visits during construction of facilities (usually requiring multiple visits) and a final visit to permit the new or renovated facility.

The current plan review fee for Pitt County is $200 and the recommended new fee is $250, Phelps said. The average fee in nearby counties is $207 and the average fee for comparable counties in the state is $237. North Carolina has set the maximum fee for the services at $250.

The health department’s first-draft proposal presented to the board was the initial phase of the budget process, Dr. John Morrow, the county health director, told the board members. The department leaders will sit with the commissioners in the department’s first budget conference at 9 a.m. on March 23.

Morrow said projected county appropriations for the coming fiscal year total about $5.5 million, with individual appropriations set for environmental health, the health clinic, community outreach and health promotions, a dental unit and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The total appropriations also include the department fund balance, Morrow said. The health department has 127.15 full-time equivalent employee positions.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.