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MCHD approves fee schedule ahead of legislative change

MORGANTOWN — Local health departments across West Virginia are scrambling to stay ahead of a legislative change that could disrupt their ability to charge for a wide range of permits and services under the environmental health banner.

Senate Bill 17 will repeal the code sections that govern environmental health permit fees and fees for service and transfer that authority to the city or county where the health department is located.  

For the MCHD, that will be the Monongalia County Commission. 

SB 17 has already passed through the Senate and is on second reading before the House of Delegates. 

If ultimately passed, it’s estimated the bill’s effective date will be April 1. Once in effect, health departments will not be allowed to charge fees for environmental health permits or services until the newly prescribed process is completed. 

Which is why the Monongalia County Board of Health held a brief special meeting Monday morning to begin that process.  

The board voted to approve a new environmental health fee schedule.

Those fees and the board’s plan of action will now be posted on the MCHD’s website, the State Register and at the Monongalia County Courthouse. 

After 30 days, the board of health will review any comments and present the fees to the county commission, which will have another 30 days to take action or the matter is void. 

Under the existing system, local health departments were last given legislative permission to increase fees by 25% in 2020. The Monongalia County Board of Health held off implementing the higher rates until 2021 in deference to the financial impact of COVID on local businesses. 

The legislature approved a 20% increase in 2023 that was ultimately nullified because it conflicted with Chapter 16 of state code. 

Environmental Health Program Manager Todd Powroznik said the increases approved by the board on Monday were set at 20%. 

“To give you an example, a small mom-and-pop restaurant that has 20 seats is currently paying $125 per year for that permit. That permit would go to $150 under this fee structure. It’s very minimal,” he said. 

Monongalia County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith said he believes the change will result in a large fluctuation in charges from one county to the next.  

“This seems to be following the trend that the legislative body wants to distance themselves from controversial things, particularly where fees are involved, and push that to the county level,” he said. “It’s ironic, because when the legislature entertains complaints about the public health system it’s usually for the inconsistency across the state, one county versus another county, but they’re initiating that very thing.” 

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