Huron County Health Department officials say they are ready to begin taking away licenses from businesses that repeatedly fail sanitation inspections.
The new, tougher approach is driven by local businesses who are tired of paying higher fees to cover the costs of inspecting a few bad actors again and again.
Like Ohio's other 87 county health departments, Huron County's sanitarians make unannounced visits to campgrounds, restaurants, mobile home parks, swimming pools, bathing areas and tattoo parlors to check for health and safety violations.
Most of the businesses work with the sanitarians, said Eric Cherry, director of Environmental Health. They might find a couple of violations and carry out a brief follow-up inspection. Cherry, the supervisor for the sanitarians, seldom has to become involved.
Dealing with repeat violators, however, can take up Cherry's time and can even tie up Cherry's boss, Huron County health commissioner Tim Hollinger. In some cases, violators are brought in to the health department for a discussion with Hollinger and Cherry.
"If they've done the exact same thing three times in a row, we bring them in here," Hollinger said.
Hollinger said his department does not have a list of the businesses that have had three violations in succession for the same offense. He knows who they are, he said, but doesn't feel comfortable naming them.
By law, Huron County sets its license fees by calculating its costs. When the sanitarians have to make repeat visits, and when Cherry and Hollinger have to get involved, that goes on the clock and raises the cost of the inspection program for all of the businesses being inspected, including the ones that cause health officials little trouble.