Eight Delaware County townships are pushing back against the new county health department, arguing that their individual municipalities are better able to do health inspections in a timely manner.
Springfield, Darby, Middletown, Aston, Upper Chichester, Ridley, Tinicum, and Marple Townships have asked the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas to step in, and last month Judge Spiros Angelos issued a preliminary injunction stopping the county from doing environmental health inspections and licensing, including of restaurants.
“Each of them believe they can do a much better job on a local basis than can be done from some central location in the county, both in time getting to the sites, as well as confusion from people in the towns relating to the inspections,” said Jim Byrne, the Springfield Township solicitor.
Seven of the eight townships — all but Middletown — filed suit this winter, before the health department even began operating, said Byrne, who is representing all eight townships in the matter. Middletown joined later.
Until the county department launched in early April, all municipalities were tasked with food and sanitation inspections.
Some restaurants were confused, Byrne said, when county health inspectors showed up after the businesses had already been recently inspected by township officials. There is a “convenience factor” in having township officials do this work, he added, since they are usually in closer proximity and can get a business reopened faster if it’s been closed pending inspection.
“All of these townships have been operating just fine for 50, 60 years,” Byrne said.
A county spokesperson called the townships’ efforts “unfortunate.”
“The health department will continue to fully serve all other portions of the county, and respond to specific inquiries from residents of all townships,” spokesperson Adrienne Marofsky said in a statement. “The county looks forward to the completion of the legal hearing, and the judge’s ruling on the merits.”
A final hearing is scheduled for May 25.