Council discusses $25 annual fee proposed for businesses

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CASPER, Wyo. — A new $25 annual fee could be imposed upon some Casper “businesses affecting public health.”

The Casper City Council has already approved the changes on one reading and needs to do so on two further reading to enact the proposed rules.

They discussed the issue during their Tuesday, Aug. 13 work session.

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Campgrounds, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, tattoo and cosmetic shops could soon would be required to pay the annual fees.

Mobile food vendors would be removed from having to pay fees under the ordinance and the change would eliminate the need for them to receive health inspections from both the city and the county.

Council also discussed gas line inspections for mobile food vendors, though the proposed ordinance makes no changes to these rules.

Casper Fire-EMS Chief Tom Solberg explained that mobile food vendors are required to have their gas lines checked annually.

Councilman Steve Freel asked about why mobile vendors were subject to such checks annually whereas brick-and-mortar restaurants were not.

Solberg said that restaurants do receive visual checks annually, though they are not required to have their gas lines pressure tested on a yearly basis.

He said that the risk of fire or explosion may be greater on food trucks due to more movement the gas lines may be subject to.

Councilman Steve Cathey asked whether other places in the state require such annual gas line checks.

Solberg said that this was a requirement from the State of Wyoming as well.

Hearing this, Cathey said he thought this might mean that other locations in the state were not enforcing the fire code requirements as established at the state level.

“It is such a new thing,” Solberg said of food trucks.

He said he was not able to speak to whether other municipalities conducted such checks.

Councilman Mike Huber questioned why this was being discussed as the proposed ordinance under discussion had no bearing on gas line checks.

One reason for the discussion on Tuesday was to clarify what exactly the fees for “businesses affecting public health” would be paying for.

City Manager Carter Napier said that the ordinance would ensure that these businesses be checked for things like health and safety each year.

He said that the intention of the ordinance was not to subject businesses to multiple inspections, addressing a concern that came up during the council’s last meeting.

The City of Casper issues no general business licences, though there are licensing requirements for specific types of businesses, according to City Attorney John Henley.

“Cities often license businesses within the confines of their city limits,” Henley said in a memo. “An earlier Council by creating a licensing requirement, for ‘businesses which affect public health’ may have wanted to provide for a formal mechanism to validate that appropriate inspections from the public health department, the building department and potentially the fire department were completed.”

The Casper-NatronaCounty Health Department already conducts health inspections of the businesses that would be asked to pay the annual fees.

The proposed ordinance would also remove businesses from listing such as laundries, public showers, dry cleaning and senior care centers.

Huber asked why the proposed ordinance would remove such businesses from the language.

Henley said such businesses do not receive inspections from the health department and said they do not have the capacity to conduct inspections of such businesses.

Henley discussed how the proposed changes might affect “booth renters.” Those are businesses such as tattoo artists who rent space inside a larger business.

He said he thought that if the larger business housing the individual renters purchases health inspections for individual vendors, then only that business should be required to pay the annual fee.

But if individual renters operate on their own and are responsible for their own hygiene standards, they should be required to pay the $25 fees themselves.

Council gave their support for moving forward with the changes when it comes up during the council meeting next Tuesday.