Eleven area restaurants are putting a dent in the Richmond County Health Department's budget.
The establishments owe the board $4,920 in past-due fees as of Jan. 16. The past-due amounts have improved since December, when the fees totaled about $25,000, said Jerry Brigham, an Augusta commissioner and a member of the Richmond County Board of Health. The Health Department has tried tirelessly to collect the remaining fees, he said.
"It ought not be right for one restaurant to operate with paying the fees and another one not paying the fees to stay in business," Mr. Brigham said. "I know the restaurant business is tough, but we still have regulations we have to follow."
In July 2006, the health board approved an increase in inspection fees to make them more comparable to the cost of the service, said Mike Allison, an environmental health county manager.
The department once charged a flat rate of $100 for the annual inspections, but fees are now based on size and vary from $175 to $350 a year for each of the 600 restaurants in Richmond County, Mr. Allison said.
Sharon Brittain, the store manager at Subway on Wrightsboro Road, said Subway's inspection fees likely got behind because of misinformation. The restaurant owes the Health Department $262.50 in past-due fees.
"We went under a new district manager, and she probably wasn't aware of the fee," Ms. Brittain said in a phone interview last week. "We will be paying it tomorrow."
As of Wednesday, the restaurant still owed past-due fees.
Board of Health attorney Harry Revell said he hopes the city will soon make inspection-fee payment a requirement for renewing business licences.
Until those changes are made, he said, the board of health will have to continue to "cajole and coerce" restaurant owners to pay up.
Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESTAURANTS MORE THAN 150 DAYS PAST DUE ON INSPECTION FEES
Amounts due as of Jan. 16
|Restaurant||Past due amount|
|Albeas, 1631 Gordon Highway, Suite 18||$450|
|The Jazz Lounge, 730 Broad St.||$450|
|Royal Waffle House Augusta, 1454 Walton Way||$450|
|Sand Hill Grill, 2457 Wheeler Road||$717.50|
|Speedway Subs, 3771 Peach Orchard Road||$375|
|Subway, 1819 Walton Way||$262.50|
|Subway No. 7353, 3233 Wrightsboro Road||$262.50|
|Tee's Restaurant, 1128 Greene St.||$717.50|
|Victoria's Cosina Mexicana, 3714 Mike Padgett Highway||$485|
|Wedgee's Southern Cafe, 2242 Hephzibah-McBean Road,||Hephzibah||$375|
|Wright's Bar B Que, 2364 Barton Chapel Road||$375|