Overland Park is going to continue frequent inspections of the nearly 600 food and beverage establishments located in the city west of Kansas City, just as it has done since 1963.

The Overland Park City Council’s Community Development Committee decided against ending restaurant inspections as a cost-cutting move.

“This is a value-added service in Overland Park,” City Councilman David White said. “It’s a quality of life issue Overland Park residents have come to expect.”

Like most cities in America, Overland Park, Kansas, is going through difficult financial times.  After cutting a program administrator and one food inspector, the city staff presented the council committee with options that included getting out of the restaurant inspection business entirely.

Until recently, Overland Park inspected every restaurant in the city three times a year.  A fourth inspection was provided by Johnson County.  With two positions lost in 2010, Overland Park shifted from doing three inspections of every establishment to a risk-based program.

Under that plan, Overland Park gives its greatest attention and four inspections per year to preschools, hospitals, nursing homes, and establishments doing processing at the retail level.  Overland Park’s 225 full service restaurants are the next priority, continuing three city inspections a year and one visit from the county.

The city inspects retail food stores and schools without susceptible populations that serve hot and cold foods under proper management twice a year and the county does so once a year.  Overland Park has 172 such establishments.

Convenience stores and coffee shops that serve prepackaged foods are the lowest priority.  Each of these 174 establishments in Overland Park gets inspected once a year by the city and once by the county.

Overland Park is the only municipality in Johnson County doing its own inspections.  The other 19 cities rely on the county, but those restaurants get inspected less often than those in Overland Park.

During the last two years, Overland Park did an average of 1,888 routine inspections a year of the city’s 616 food and beverage establishments.   Johnson County did 2,239 inspections of 1,700 establishments.

Overland Park, with a population topping 170,000, last year issued 84 tickets for food code violators that resulted in fines of $18,200.   Overland Park also imposes a local food license fee of $100 per year, which generates about $65,000 a year.

The State of Kansas charges $200 for the food license it has required since 1976.

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association supports the level of oversight being provided by Overland Park.  “The service they’re providing is really for public safety,” said Al Hinman, association president.

Public health jobs, including food inspectors, have been among the cuts made by state and local governments in the last couple of years.

Overland Park will continue its risk-based program rather than eliminate it as some had proposed.  A third alternative would have been to only continue the licensing and inspection of temporary vendors and city facilities. 

The council’s community development committee will review the program again in six months.