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Alsip mayor: Let Cook County do health commissioner's work

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Marcus K. Garner

A proposal to have Cook County inspect Alsip restaurants has some people arguing to keep local control over health inspections.

Mayor Pat Kitching plans to have a contract in place within a month to pay the public health department $60 per restaurant inspection.

"It will be cheaper than what we would pay a full-time (health) commissioner," Kitching said.

Alsip budgeted $60,000 for a health commissioner this year.

"Control is a problem I have," Trustee James Quinn said. "The county government is a huge bureaucracy. If we have a problem with an eating establishment or an apartment, you have to go through hoops."

The village has been without a health commissioner since May when Sandy Eich retired after 25 years of inspecting Alsip's restaurants, apartment buildings and public places for potential health hazards.

The village has used the its part-time health inspector and contracted additional health services through Country Club Hills in the meantime, Kitching said.

Quinn said the mayor has circulated information on the county's health department to the trustees but hasn't discussed using county resources.

Alsip shouldn't need help from Cook County or from Country Club Hills, Quinn said.

"The town has run on its own for 30-plus years," he said.

Kitching said in addition to saving more than 50 percent of what the village paid in salary, insurance and a car for the commissioner, the health rules the local commissioner enforces stem from the county.

The idea for Alsip to outsource its health inspections was suggested by Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch.

Country Club Hills has an ongoing contract with the county, Welch said.

He said his town hires the county because the cost of restaurant inspections and planning reviews — which precede the opening of new eateries — is passed on to the restaurant being inspected.

"If there's a health outbreak, we're plugged into Cook County," said Welch, who is the county's deputy finance director. "The county would do a major investigation, and we don't have to pay to have lab costs. You're saving your taxpayers money, and giving them the benefit of a bigger agency."

Quinn said he'd prefer to have someone working on a local level.

"I don't want to deal with a different inspector every time we call for an inspection," he said. "If somebody goes into an eating establishment in this town, I want to be able to know who they are."

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