Council member Ron Nelson claimed the fees charged by the state are too high for some of the smaller eateries in Refugio. and stands a chance of causing some of them to close. Nelson asked the council to give him until the next meeting to find a certified inspector willing to take the job.
“We’re trying to attract small businesses to come to Refugio and yet we do something like this that will run them out of business and shut their doors,” he said. “I don’t want to put that burden on our businesses.”
Council members Wanda Dukes and Karen Watts sided with Nelson; however, Ruben Garcia wanted the matter resolved last week by turning the inspections over to the state. His motion died for lack of a second.
Lenny Anzaldua, chamber president and head of economic development, weighed in, saying there were other avenues besides turning over inspections to the state.
Anzaldua, who also owns L&L BarBQ, said he provides training for his employees and that other inspectors can be found.
“The problem is, they want the city to pay,” Garcia said.
Prior to the resignation and departure of Dr. Peter Coldwell, the city paid $200 per month for his services.
Mayor Rey Jaso said that the city was waiting for the county to appoint a health inspector following Coldwell’s resignation. Local physician Stefan Walker was named health inspector, but food inspections were removed from his realm of duties, as per Walker’s request. Walker agreed to oversee the inspections; however, if an inspector was hired.
The action spurred the mayor and city secretary to search out an inspector.
At a previous commissioners court meeting, Commissioner Stanley Tuttle reported that he pays $1,000 per year plus more money for inspections and certifications for his employees as compared with Refugio restaurants that pay nothing. Tuttle owns Tuttle’s, a grocery store and restaurant.
City Secretary Callie Shreckengost, who corresponded with the state about turning over the inspections, said inspectors in Corpus Christi and Victoria would not accept the job.
She told the council that while the state will charge the individual businesses, the town will not be charged any fees. However, Shreckengost said she did not know how much in fees the businesses would be charged.
Shreckengost said a number of anonymous complaints had been filed with the state regarding Refugio restaurants and food handlers not being inspected.
After the meeting, Nelson and Anzaldua met County Judge Rene Mascorro in an informal meeting to ascertain whether the county intends to hire a food inspector. Further investigation will be done by the elected officials before the next council meeting.
If an inspector isn’t found, inspections are expected to be turned over to the state.