Health Department Director Angie Hittson

An official has ordered a review of the Franklin County Health Department after a lack of food establishment inspections.

On Tuesday, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer asked new Health Department Director Angie Hittson to “look at where we are right now and take a look at where we need to be in the future.”

The Franklin County Commission on Tuesday spoke about the insufficient number of inspections that were conducted on local food establishments in 2011 and 2012.

Last week, The Missourian reported that there were only 186 inspections in 2011 and 368 inspections in 2012. During those years there were between 460 to 500 food establishments in the county, and they were supposed to be inspected at least once a year.

During the regular Tuesday county commission meeting, First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said, “We will inspect every institution in 2013. And that’s a fact.”

Lack of Funding

Griesheimer decried a lack of funding for the health department.

“One thing the general public does not know is we only provide out of general revenue $23,721 to operate the health department,” Griesheimer said.

Most health departments around Franklin County are supported by a special tax, Griesheimer said.

The Franklin County Health Department relies on grants, contracts and fees for revenue, he said. The limited amount of funding sources has created a hardship for the health department through the years, he added.

“The general public gets a tremendous bang for their tax dollar,” Griesheimer said.

But he said if the county is going to have a “first class” health department, “We’ve got to fund it.”

Griesheimer said one idea to generate more revenue for the health department is to put a use tax on the ballot for voters to decide.

If there was a use tax, it would be divided between various county operations with a portion for the health department, he said.

Another idea, Griesheimer said, is to let voters decide whether there should be a separate tax just to support the health department.

New Director

Hittson just took over the health department in April after the retirement of former Director Conn Roden. She said there is currently one full-time and one part-time inspector who do food establishment inspections for the health department. Last week, she said that she would like to work with the county commission to hire one more full-time inspector.

Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz praised the health department’s performance. He said the amount of work that the department has done over the years far exceeds the dollar amount that goes to the operation.

Brinker said The Missourian’s news story on the lack of food establishment inspections was informative but “missed the benefits that the health department of Franklin County provides the public.”

He said there are some people in the county who get all of their health care from the health department.

“Nobody stretches the dollar further than the health department,” Brinker said.