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Middlesex County Public Health Department Re-inspection Fees Upsets Business Owners Council Meeting 5/16/12

Some Business Owners wait to speak at the 5/16/12 City Council Meeting

PERTH AMBOY – Small business owner Reyes Ortega was one of many speakers who were opposed to the $75 re-inspection fee that the Middlesex County Health Department wants instituted. This re-inspection fee which is $75 are for new businesses that allows an inspector to check their premises to make sure all necessary equipment is in place before they open up.

Council President Kenneth Balut said “Seventy-five dollars is a very reasonable price to pay to make sure everything is in place before a new business opens up. “Why open up then have to close down if you do not meet County and City regulations.”

Several of the business owners who spoke were under the mistaken impression that this fee applied to their existing business. Mayor Wilda Diaz spoke to some of the business owners that were sitting in the Council Chambers and explained to them that they would not be affected by this fee.

A Health Inspector from the Middlesex County was on hand to answer any questions from those in attendance in regards to this fee. The concerns of the business owners were basically unfounded.

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez asked all the business owners at the meeting to raise their hands and several did. He then wanted to know of those business owners how many were charged with the $75 re-inspection fee. None of the business owners raised their hands.

Mayor Diaz then told those business owners, “See I told you that most of you will not be affected by this re-inspection fee.”

“The only way an existing business will be charged for a re-inspection fee is if they make major renovations to their business,” the County Health Inspector stated. “If an existing business is sold and there are no changes made, there will be no additional fee to the new owner. There are also three re-inspection fee categories – satisfactory, conditional satisfactory and unsatisfactory. There are penalties for businesses who fail inspections starting at $100.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez noted that the fees collected do not go to the City of Perth Amboy but to the County.

B.A. Greg Fehrenbach also stated that the County initiated these re-inspection fees because they needed to increase the efficiency of their inspectors. “The county had a choice of increasing their revenue or reducing their staff. The County charges very low rates compared to what the City would pay if they had their own local Health Officer which would be very expensive.” Fehrenbach used Carteret as an example as a town who was thinking of partnering with Woodbridge for County Health Services but in the long run found out they would be paying 50% more by doing so.

The Council still had many questions in regards to the re-inspection fee and asked that it be tabled until the next meeting of May 30 to give them more time to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of passing this ordinance.

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