Locals fear inspections handoff will harm serviceChris Brown Mahoney and her husband are often a two-person show.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Facilities licensed under the program
Food, beverage and lodging - 167
Mobile home parks and campgrounds - 30
Pools - 26
School kitchens - 25
Officials also issue special permits for events that involve food, such as River City Days
Chris Brown Mahoney and her husband are often a two-person show.
That means their morning schedules revolve around preparing food and checking customers in to their Red Wing bed-and-breakfast inn.
Brown Mahoney says Goodhue County inspectors understand that nuance and others associated with running a B&B.
Local inspectors, she said, arrive at more convenient times when Brown Mahoney and her husband have time to answer questions and be more involved in the inspection process.
Brown Mahoney fears that - among other things - will change next year when state officials take over the county's food, beverage and lodging licensing program.
"After someone inspects you for two or three years they get to know you," said Brown Mahoney, owner of the Moondance Inn. "I think the state probably won't do as good of an inspection. They won't know the properties. I don't think that someone who doesn't know the area is going to do as well."
Commissioners voted earlier this month to hand food, beverage, lodging, mobile home park, pool, campground and school kitchen inspections back to state officials.
Based on current county figures and established permit fees, county officials said this week the move won't be a budget savings to the county.
Commissioner Ron Allen said the decision has been a long time coming and was not strictly about balancing the county's budget.
"This is about more than just saving money," Allen said "It's a philosophy: If you're demanding this, then you need to enforce it."
State enforcement, however, could cost locals seeking licenses or getting inspected.
The state has adopted a 20 percent fee increase next year that will affect Goodhue County establishments depending on how the state implements its fee structure locally, said Jason Petersen, Goodhue County Environmental Health director.
County officials did not plan on adopting that fee increase, Petersen said.
@Sub Heads:Who does it better?
@Normal: State officials administered the program until 1984 until county officials took over, saying a local program would be more efficient and better handled.
Since the county took over, more establishments have come into compliance and inspections have more regular, Petersen said.
Petersen said it's likely the inspection process will be slower - at least initially - once the state is back in the saddle.
"There's going to be a learning curve for (state inspectors)," Petersen said. "But I do hope the state has the ability to come through and do the inspections and take the time to answer the questions people have."
The state, Petersen said, has more staff than it did when it initially ran the program, but people will have to be patient and plan ahead. Last-minute permit seekers likely will be out of luck once the state is running the show.
Public Health Director Karen Main said the beauty of a local inspection program is the face-to-face contact it allows.
She said that will not be the case with state inspectors, who will operate out of regional offices.
"There will be an inconvenience particularly when people are trying to get a new business going," Main said. "It will be harder to get attention from the state. It's not as possible for them to be as helpful."
Brown Mahoney agrees.
She also suspects the public will not report complaints as often because they will not know whom to call.
Goodhue County Environmental Health Department staff members currently conduct inspections and deal with questions.
Once the program is moved, two employees will be laid off and remaining staff will be transferred to another department.
They will continue handling septic inspections, wells, public health nuisances and meth labs.