The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved increasing fees charged by the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health for permits to sell food in markets, operate community water systems, store waste and conduct other activities that require the county’s stamp of approval, but many fees will remain frozen for the benefit of businesses hit hard by the coronavirus emergency.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board signed off on Environmental Health Director Keith Jones’ request for hikes to raise permit fees by 3%, approximating an increase in the region’s consumer price index last year.

“The new … fees will produce sufficient revenue to support the proposed costs of providing services in the upcoming fiscal year for which (the) required fees are being charged,” Jones said in a statement posted to the board’s policy agenda.

“Businesses will be moderately impacted by increased fees for food market permits, plan checks, solid waste and hazardous material-related activities, septic tank and water well permits,” he said. “Every effort has been made to minimize impacts on industries which are suffering the economic effects due to COVID-19.”

A county ordinance passed in 2014 authorizes the department to adjust fees to keep up with inflation.

Environmental health officials anticipate the agency will be saddled with heftier expenses in fiscal year 2020-21, due to greater internal service charges, as well as higher labor costs stemming from union contracts, pension obligations, insurance payments and lease outlays connected to five facilities.

The fee hikes will net about $250,000 in additional revenue.

Under the revised fee schedule, obtaining a permit to operate a 300-square-foot open air or closed market selling packaged goods will cost $246 annually, compared to $239 now; a mobile food commissary permit will increase from $606 to $624; a septic tank truck permit will go from $347 to $357; a community water system operating permit will go from $573 to $590, with up to two dozen connections, and from $1,142 to $1,176 with up to 200; and a permit to repair or modify an underground storage tank will increase from $882 to $908.

The county will freeze more fees than it seeks to increase, waiving hikes on body art facilities, micro-enterprise home kitchen operations, veterinary clinics, medical waste generating facilities, brick-and-mortar restaurants and vending machine operators.

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