Court of Common Pleas Judge Spiros E. Angelos issued an injunction late Thursday against the new Delaware County Health Department conducting any more health or environmental inspections. It’s part of an ongoing legal battle between local townships and the new county agency over the issue of inspections.
“Pending the final hearing date, this Court enters a Preliminary Injunction which enjoins the County of Delaware Board of Health from conducting any environmental health inspections and/or licensing any food and beverage retail establishments, food stores, public and parochial schools, and public swimming pools in the Townships of Springfield, Ridley, Upper Chichester, Aston, Tinicum, Darby, Marple and Middletown,” Angelos ruled.
Local township and borough officials have been warning for months the county was not ready to take over inspections. They also warned that the costs paid by small businesses for inspections could soar.
The group of eight local communities went to court asking a judge to intervene, and on Thursday they got their wish.
“It’s encouraging that the court decided townships are able to continue to provide the best health services by keeping it as local as possible,” said Glenolden Borough Manager Brian Razzi.
While the local municipalities are not opposed to creating a health department to track diseases, chronic medical conditions, ensure emergency preparedness and pandemic planning, among other functions, the towns have been advocating to continue to offer inspection services locally.
“This is a responsibility that has traditionally fallen to municipalities, who employ health officers and other staff to provide these services,” the township officials said in a statement last year.
“Municipalities have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to efficiently manage their budgets and how they spend tax dollars,” said James Byrne, an attorney representing Springfield, Ridley, and Aston townships. “Townships cannot effectively manage their budgets with the lack of certainty that exists around their staffing needs and whether they will be able to recoup those costs from fees for the health inspection services they provide. This is about good government and the efficient, responsible use of tax dollars.”
The county didn’t help its cause when it was discovered one of its newly-hired health inspectors had worked as a sex researcher at the Urban Sexuality Lab.
Township officials have also warned the cost of inspections could rise by as much as 500 percent. For example, Razzi told DVJournal that Clifton Heights, Colwyn, and Prospect Park still charge just $50 for basic health inspections. Under the new county fee schedule, the minimum charge is $266 — more than five times higher. And while in most communities a follow-up inspection confirming compliance doesn’t involve another fee, the county adds follow-up fees of $237 and $332.
This Court has scheduled a final argument and, if necessary, a hearing on the Emergency Petition for Preliminary Injunction for Wednesday, May 25, 2022.