An ordinance that would alter restaurant inspections and the collection of fees regarding the County Food Code left the Phelps County Commission questioning if the ordinance was permissible and what authority the council has related to charging fees to restaurant owners.

The proposed ordinance brought forth by Phelps County Prosecutor Brendon Fox and Phelps-Maries Health Department Director Ashley Wann at the commission meeting May 17, would include an annual fee and added fees if follow-ups were necessary for restaurant owners, according to Fox.

The ordinance falls under The Hancock Amendment, which requires voter approval before taxes or fees are added, so the question of putting the ordinance to ballot was raised.

“I can tell you I like the ordinance and I like the idea of having an appropriate fee structure, I just think if we definitely want to not have any issues with it we need to do something to put it to a vote,” said Fox. “I think most people like the idea that when they go to a restaurant they know the food is safe.”

The toughest part the commission saw was writing the statute into a ballot, and Fox acknowledged that the entire ordinance and fee schedule didn’t necessarily have to be put on the ballot.

“We only have specific ordinance authority granted by the legislature, and for us to pass this ordinance we would have to have the legislature take action to authorize the passing of this,” stated Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp.

For now, the commission decided to wait on it until Phelps-Maries Health Department Director Ashley Wann comes up with something more solid to present.