Council hopes to help food vendors

The City of Warren is taking steps to make it easier for retail food vendors to comply with the law.

City Council approved a package of motions Monday night related to food inspections which will allow the city to provide services to food retailers who need to come into compliance with Pennsylvania’s Act 106 of 2010.

The law took effect in 2011, but has recently caused controversy amongst food vendors who had not met its requirements.

The law outlines what types of food vendors are required to undergo the health inspection and food retailer licensing process and which vendors are exempt.

“There are some additional requirements under the new law,” City Administrator Mary Ann Nau said. “We don’t have an ordinance stipulating what is exempt.”

Council unanimously approved an ordinance establishing a board of health in the city to handle inspections and licensing officially, a resolution establishing procedures for retail food facility licensure and a resolution appointing a health officer to handle inspections.

The city has informally utilized the services of Dr. Dennis Olsen from Kane and his appointed deputy inspectors to handle food inspections for approximately ten years.

That arrangement will not change following council’s action. Olsen was appointed to the position of health officer.

“We’re not talking about replacing him,” City Manager Nancy Freenock told council. “We’re just appointing him on paper… This is not a new position.”

Freenock asked that the appointment be done annually, like the solicitor and building code official positions.

One appointment that did change was that of auditing firm for the city.

The accounting firm that currently handles city audits, Kersey and Associates, informed the city earlier this year that it would no longer be handling municipal audits.

In response, the city sent out 27 requests for proposals to accounting firms in an effort to find a new firm. The requests garnered only six responses.

After reviewing the returned proposals, city staff recommended utilizing the services of Felix and Gloekler, of Erie.

Council unanimously approved the appointment and an agreement for the 2013 through 2015 audits.

The agreement stipulates payment of $33,000 per year for auditing, a figure based on a rate of $82.50 per hour over 400 hours.

Freenock noted audits generally take approximately 400 man-hours.

The $33,000 charge represents a $3,000 decrease in the cost of the audit from the $36,000 paid to Kersey and Associates.

Hill Engineering was approved unanimously as the city’s engineer.

Approval of an agreement with Hill for consulting services was also on the agenda, but was tabled to allow council further time for review.

Stapleford and Byham was once again appointed as city solicitor, with Andrea Stapleford acting as primary council.

Nau was appointed city building code official, a role she also held in 2013.