WALKER -- About 20 years ago, Cass County decided to hire a sanitarian to inspect food, beverage and lodging businesses, because state inspectors weren't making inspections frequently enough.
Now, Minnesota Department of Health has told the county that agency will take back inspections responsibilities, because it doesn't think the county is inspecting often enough.
Tuesday, Environmental Services Director Paul Fairbanks told the board MDH has advised him it will not be sufficient for the county to dedicate its two qualified sanitarians to inspect such businesses full time for the next two months to increase frequency.
The state agency wants Cass to dedicate two full-time sanitarians to the work permanently for it to even consider letting the county retain inspection responsibilities. Cass County inspection fees have been about 75 percent of the rate the state charges to inspect in other counties.
Chief Deputy Auditor Larry Wolfe said Cass loses about five to 10 resorts a year.
At current levels of businesses to inspect and if the county increased inspection fees to the state's level, the county would have a net $36,000 loss to pay two full-time salaries the first year and about $15,000 annually thereafter.
Because large resorts pay more fees than restaurants and because the number of resorts has been declining, he suggested the county likely would lose even more each year by trying to continue offering local sanitarian services.
The board Tuesday voted to let the state resume the sanitarian inspection program, with a pledge that the county will monitor the frequency with which the state makes inspections in the next year.
A public hearing will be held Nov. 18 to consider repealing the county food, beverage and lodging ordinance under which local sanitation inspections have been made.
Environmental Services Department inspectors who have been inspecting those businesses part time in addition to making zoning inspections and responding to complaints will be re-assigned to full-time zoning-related inspection services.
The county board asked that emphasis be placed on responding to a backlog of complaints concerning zoning violations.
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