At the April 27 Yucaipa City Council meeting council voted to appoint (correction to story) Dr. Erin Gustafson, the current County Acting Health Officer as the city’s health officer.
City Manager Ray Casey said, “This is a clean up item and something that several of the surrounding cities are doing as well.”
Casey continued with, “Our older documents did not clearly specify that the San Bernardino County Health Officer also acts as the health officer for our community and so we have updated the documents to reflect that.”
After much discussion as to why this needed to be updated as it has been the same since the city incorporated Casey explained, “When we did some research relative to some of the actions that the county health officer was making, we learned that it was not as clear as it probably should have been in our ordinance.”
Councilmember Bobby Duncan asked, “Do we pay for services from the county health department as part of our inspections to the local businesses and restaurants?”
Casey answered that services weren’t specifically purchased but the county health department receives revenue through taxes. “The only place that we pay the health department is if we are actually requiring health department permits for projects that we have,” said Casey.
“Alternatives are limited in terms of who would be selected as a health officer for the community, and staff felt it was timely to update the ordinance to make it clear that the county health officer is also the city’s public health officer,” said Casey.
Duncan questioned if it was possible to have a person on staff to do the approvals for the restaurants and have better service for the local businesses and have more control over it.
Councilmember Dick Riddell interjected, “This is traditionally a county function as cities aren’t equipped to all the county does. The county takes care of the health business for all the cities. There is no way we could take on this responsibility ourselves.”
Mayor David Avila said, “I don’t believe any city in San Bernardino County has a city health officer except cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and the cities that have millions of dollars in the budget could afford something like that. It is an expense that we would have to put out or pay for and at this juncture and our economic history … we simply do not have the money.”
Duncan stated, “Why not just continue on the way we have in the past? Why is this a clean up item now? Why would we do that now, so we can justify the fact that we followed the mandate of the director of county health? We did that anyway. I talked to the businesses up and down the boulevard that are on the verge of bankruptcy based on the input of a $360,000 a year employee that basically said ‘you’ve got to shut down and go bankrupt.’ I would just like to have a little more control over that because it doesn’t seem fair to me.”
Councilmember Greg Bogh asked, “Ray, we have the ability, if there is any issue, to rescind this at any time, correct?” Casey responded it was a policy decision.
City Attorney David Snow interjected, “The one thing I would add, there is a health and safety code section that does require governing bodies of cities to appoint a health officer, unless the city does make other arrangements with the county.”
Bogh wanted to know if staff could look into the possibility of the county having the abilitiy to allow cities to appoint their own officer that would work with them … perhaps we could look at that if we don’t necessarily concur with all the decisions that are being made at the county level?”
Casey added, “We have to designate somebody and just to clarify, at this point anyway, the county hasn’t done anything more restrictive than the governor’s order, relative to businesses.”
Avila said, “The county just gets the word of what they have to do and they may not always agree with it … but that is what they have to do. The county health is instructed to do the job so they do it. Sometimes you just have to make those kind of decisions. I don’t see anything wrong with appointing the county health director being our city health director. It cleans it up and makes it rather easier for us in the long run, rather than hire our own health director. I think at this point that is just not practical to hire someone to do that job when someone is already there that we don’t pay for except through our taxes. I’m good with this and I support it.”
The county health officer is an appointment by the board of supervisors.
Mayor Pro Tem Denise Allen said, “This is the way we have been functioning for our health services. We have been using that particular agency to do this service for us for as long as I can remember.”
Riddell made a motion to approve this item. Mayor Pro Tem Denise Allen seconded it and it passed 4-1 with Duncan voting no.
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