Tri-Town Health Board hikes fees, but offers break to small retailers
The board of the department, which serves Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, has adopted across-the-board fee increases ranging mainly from nominal to triple the original figures, to more closely cover the department's expense to issue a permit or conduct an inspection.
For example, a retail food service permit would jump from $115 to $200 annually; that permit costs Tri-Town $370 to process, according to the department's previous available cost analysis, conducted for fiscal 2017.
Following Monday's public hearing on the new fee schedule, the board did offer a break to stores with 500 square feet or less of retail space holding a retail food permit. If the small grocer sells milk and cream, the $100 permit cost to do so will be waived. That fee is currently $15.
The board made the exception after the Bob Longerato, co-owner of East Lee Package Store, told the board the $100 fee would be a difficult cost to recoup from his milk sales, according to Tri-Town Director James Wilusz. He noted Longerato holds several permits, including a tobacco retailer's license that's increasing from $265 to $500.
Tri-Town projects that the higher fees will bring in $211,000 in revenue in 2019 — an increase of about $94,000 over the current fiscal year. The additional money will almost cover the $105,000 increase in the fiscal 2019 budget of $366,000, according to Tri-Town officials.
The 40 percent increase will cover the cost of hiring another health inspector; a boost in pay to other staffers and a $50,000 hike in employee health benefits. The new full-time inspector arrived in January to help clear a backlog of 500 pending inspections.
The mid-fiscal year hiring was paid for with surplus money and has helped clear nearly all the backlog of inspections, according to Wilusz.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.
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