Orange County Health Care Agency staff were directed to do greater public outreach and substantiate the need to replace the existing program and reassess the proposed fee increase structure, which contained a three-year fee increase proposal that had a 10% increase in year one.
The existing system is essentially a “pass or fail” system, but County staff has been pushing a system over-haul that would get into letter grading, and possibly, color coding. CRA’s main contention has been that, no one has produced any data to suggest the current placarding program is deficient or compromises health and safety in any way. And likewise, there has been no data presented that indicates the program overhaul would provide any greater level of food safety. While fees for the program have not been adjusted since 2008, the fee proposals were incredibly front-loaded and topped-out at a 10.7% increase in the first year.
There is concern about the fiscal health of the inspection program and County staff has suggested that without substantial fee increases, they would be forced to “eliminate food facility inspection positions, resulting in a reduction in annual inspections, and (they) will not be able to maintain two inspections per year for food facilities.” That is a concern to the CRA and some Board members had suggested staff revisit the fee structure, while other board members suggested that the County general fund could cover the costs.
The CRA has been in discussion over this item with County staff since December 2013 and will continue those discussion through this calendar year. For now, Health Care Agency has been directed to engage in more public outreach, obtain more feedback, and return to the Board at its November 25th hearing.