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Missing: The health inspector

Coconino County is catching up on restaurant inspections after more than a decade of inspecting less frequently than required in Arizona due to staffing shortages. The Coconino County Health Department has performed only 50 percent to 60 percent of the number of inspections it should have done per year in the past three years, county statistics show.

Environmental Health Program Manager Marlene Gaither and her staff of inspectors are responsible for checking up on school cafeterias, fast food vendors, lunch carts and restaurants, among other food facilities.

Until this year, the state hadn’t ever audited the counties to see if they were doing the required number of restaurant inspections. Inspectors are expected to get to between 75 percent and 80 percent of restaurants twice this year, as required, after one staff person was added by the Board of Supervisors.

Lack of staff has been the chief reason for not inspecting as often as required. There have only been about five full-time inspector positions since 1983 for the second-largest county in the U.S.