Last year, the News Journal began printing the results of regular health inspections conducted on Whitley County restaurants, motels, schools, pools and other public facilities.
Right now, we are in the process of opening the doors to provide similar inspections for the Knox County portions of Corbin and southern Laurel County – a move that will basically cover our readership area.
It is something we feel is a basic service to our readers so they can make informed decisions about where they eat, stay, swim, get a tattoo, whatever. It had never been done before. Like in so many other areas, the News Journal was the local media pioneer in an effort to increase public awareness and the common citizen’s right to know. We are proud of this.
But more can be done.
Though literally tens of thousands of people in this area read the News Journal every week, a few do not. Even some of our most avid readers may not look at those inspections. I’m not really a big government sort of guy, but here’s an area where I think our local officials can step in a make a change that is not taxing or onerous to business owners, but is at the same time beneficial and informative to the common man.
In April of 2008, the Lexington-Fayette County Board of Health approved a policy that required restaurants to post their most recent inspection scores in a conspicuous spot near the entrance of the business. Whitley County should do the same.
Currently, the county has no requirement that restaurants post their most recent health inspection scores for the public to see. I can tell you from reading the details of those inspections that we print, people would probably like to know those scores.
Recently, a few people I know ate at a local restaurant that scored VERY LOW on a recent inspection. Some of the problems at this establishment were, in my opinion, shocking. It was one of the lowest scores I’ve seen since we’ve been doing this.
I’m told those problems were eventually corrected.
That’s great, but during the interim that restaurant should have had to post that low score for all to see. I think people have the right to know, generally speaking, the cleanliness of a restaurant where they decide to eat. Like in Lexington, scores of 85 (good) or higher can be posted in green, and ones of 84 or lower (bad) can be posted in red; an obvious warning sign to customers.
Aside from the evident informative nature of this, I can also see this having the positive side effects of restaurants wanting to have the highest score possible as a way to compete with one another, instilling confidence in customers or perhaps even increasing business.
The rules in Lexington/Fayette County seem the ideal template to go by. I’ve eaten numerous times in restaurants there since the new regulation took effect last May. Most of the inspections scores are written on forms, in HUGE letters, right where you can’t miss them. Many times, they are posted right on the front door so you can see the score before you even walk in the building. I always look at them and take them into account.
The average person should not have to go to their county health department and request to see these inspections or file open records requests, wait three days and pay some ridiculous cost to view the information. Our county’s fiscal court and our city governments can make it easier for everyone.
I think it is something they should look into doing.