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Businesses react to new county food ordinance that includes inspection fees

A new ordinance is cooking up a lot of controversy in Pike County, Illinois.

County officials are planning to charge businesses for required food inspections, but businesses aren’t happy about it.

The new ordinance includes an annual fee for restaurants and businesses when they get food inspections.
County leaders said it’s needed to keep the Pike County Health Department going, but businesses said the last thing they need is another expense.

Every little bit counts.

That’s what Luetta Swartz, the owner of the Cardinal Inn restaurant in Pittsfield, said about a proposed fee to charge businesses for food inspections.

“It will impact all the restaurants here in Pike County because I’m sure they all have the same problems I do,” Swartz said. “It’s hard to make a living in Pike County.”

The Cardinal Inn has been how Swartz makes a living for 16 years now– something she said can be tough in a small town.

“Any fee charge will be an extra expense,” Swartz said. “We don’t really need extra expenses right now. What are they doing with our tax dollars? They’re supposed to be paying for things like this.”

Officials at the Health Department said they understand this could be tough on local businesses. However, in order to continue funding their daily operations, they said the fee is necessary.

“For the past 50 years, we’ve been able to do without having any sort of fee schedule,” Payton McKinnon with the Pike County Health Department said. “In those years though, inflation, the cost of everything and operating here has gone up. Unfortunately, there’s not really been any addition of different avenues we can try and explore adding some funds here at the health department.”

The proposed annual fee will be 200 dollars for level one businesses– which Health Department officials said is a majority of the businesses that serve food in Pittsfield.

For Swartz, she said any extra fee is not ideal and hopes she won’t have to make any changes.

“I can’t raise my prices much and still have business,” Swartz said. “It’s going to make for a domino effect. If I raise prices, I will need less staff, and it will just keep going.”

Officials with the health department said they plan to present it to the county board by the end of the month.
If approved, businesses will start paying a fee for food inspections in May.

The proposed annual fees are as follows:

Kara Biernat

Kara Biernat is a MultiMedia Journalist for WGEM News.

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