Orange County supervisors put up another yellow light on the road to developing a restaurant rating system today by declaring that grand jury recommendations need more study.
In April, the board voted 3-1, with Supervisor Janet Nguyen abstaining, to ask staffers to refine a plan for grading restaurants on how they conform to the county's health and safety code. A majority of supervisors signaled they wanted colored-coded grades -- red, green or yellow signs indicating if the establishment passed and inspection, conditionally passed or failed.
But instead of a declaring their intent to issue signs indicating a "conditional pass," which was one of a grand jury's recommendations, the board voted to say the proposal needs more study. The supervisors needed to issue a statement today to comply with a June 3 deadline to respond to the grand jury report.
The Orange County Health Care Agency is supposed to present to the board by July 22 a plan for color-coded signs, along with cost estimates for issuing them and doing more inspections. At issue is whether new fees would be required to cover the cost increases for follow-up inspections at restaurants that received a "conditional" pass.
Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson voted no.
"I think we'd be well-served to just go with a pass-fail" system, he said.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen said she would not support any changes that required a fee increase.
County officials told board members a fee increase would be needed to pay for the reinspections.
"I just hope there's an understanding that this Polyanna view that we can do more and not charge for it is not going to fly," Nelson said, referring to Nguyen's staunch opposition to fee increases.
"I don't like fees, nobody likes fees," Nelson added. "But (HCA's) workload could double on re-inspections... and if you don't have extra money it will delay things... If we're not going to vote for a full solution then a half solution won't help anybody."
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he favored "cost recovery for those people who use more services," meaning restaurants that require more inspections.
Spitzer urged county officials to get rid of "awards of excellence" that were given to some restaurants to encourage better food-handling practices.
"People leave them up for years, and I think they're misleading," Spitzer said.
Inspectors are encouraging restaurateurs to take down the awards, staffers told Spitzer.
Supervisor John Moorlach warned county staffers that any increased fees would have to be justified and not just another way to raise revenue.
--City News Service