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County commissioners buck proposed environmental health fee hike

An effort in the 14-county southwest Georgia public health district to raise environmental health fees to be uniform across the district hit a roadblock in Grady County Tuesday night.
The proposed new fee schedule, which includes increases ranging from $10 to $150 for various services, was presented to the Grady County Commission by Grady County Environmental Health Specialist Clay Poole.
Rates, according to Poole, have not been raised in over 12 years.
The environmental health specialist said that five counties in the district have already adopted the new fee schedule that officials with public health hoped to implement Jan. 1, 2016. The Grady County Board of Health previously approved the recommended new fee schedule, but it is up to the county commission to make it official.
Commissioner Ray Prince noted that some of the fees had increased 300 percent and Commissioner T.D. David asked how much the new fees would generate in additional revenue.
According to Poole, the projected new revenue from the proposed fee hike would generate approximately $21,550 for the Grady County Health Department.
Vice Chairman Charles Norton asked if the new revenue would be deducted from the amount of cash supplement the health department currently receives from the county.
“I would like to think not. We’re trying to overcome the deficit we’ve been running since before I came to work here,” Poole said.
The environmental health specialist said the current work load in Grady County warranted two full-time environmental health specialists plus a full-time secretary, but the current staff is only himself and Clarcia Avery, who is working part-time and is a retired environmental health employee.
Poole said he was hopeful the additional fee revenue could cover the cost of a full-time secretary so that he could spend more time in the field and provide prompter service to the public.
Vice Chairman Norton and Commissioner Elwyn Childs voiced concerns with Poole’s interaction with local residents.
“I have had complaints about attitude. They don’t appreciate your attitude,” Commissioner Childs said.
However, Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar said that since meeting with Poole with concerns raised by county commissioners he has not had a complaint in six, nine or even 12 months.
Poole said he wished the complaints had been brought to his attention at the time. Commissioner Childs said he could arrange for a  meeting with at least one concerned citizen, but he thought it would not be prudent and commented, “It’s best to just drop it where it is.”
Tobar also said that Poole is “great to work with” and has “responded almost immediately” when he has called or requested assistance.
Poole said that some of the issues that arose when he first took the job here were due to the fact that some existing regulations and laws were not being implemented or enforced. The environmental health specialist said he was not certain why this was the case, but he had to begin implementing the regulations.
“In some cases, we could have saved taxpayers some headaches if the regulations had been implemented to begin with,” Poole said.
After discussing the proposal, Commissioner David offered a motion to adopt the proposed new fee schedule as recommended by the Board of Health, but his motion died for lack of a second.
“We’re just not going to act on this tonight Clay,” Commission Chairman LaFaye Copeland commented after David’s motion died.

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