Delco judge temporarily pauses county health inspections after eight townships push back

People stand outside of a building with a banner that reads,

File photo: A Yeadon COVID-19 vaccine site has become the headquarters for the new Delaware County Public Health department. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

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The Delaware County Health Department is still in its infancy, however, the new government body is already receiving pushback from municipalities that feel it has overstepped its boundaries.

Eight townships — Springfield, Tinicum, Ridley, Upper Chichester, Aston, Darby, Marple, and Middletown — have coalesced in an attempt to block the county from performing health inspections in their jurisdictions. The municipalities argue that their own local departments already have the capacity to do it on their own.

“What we hope to accomplish is that we do not want to join into the county health department, at least insofar as all the restaurant inspections and other types of inspections that the county wants to centralize into one,” said Jim Byrne, solicitor for Springfield Township.

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Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Spiros Angelos issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the townships on April 21 that halts Delco’s health department from conducting environmental health inspections and licensing food establishments, food stores, public and parochial schools, and public swimming pools in those areas.

“We all have our own health department and our own zoning and code and other departments that are perfectly capable of doing the job and have been doing the job for years. And we think we can do a better job with our local folks being closer to them in terms of distance, response time, and we just think that that’s just better for the taxpayers of each of the towns,” Byrne said.

In the order, Spiros cited the eight petitioners having certified Commonwealth of Pennsylvania health inspectors as the basis for the preliminary injunction.

A county spokesperson expressed that the recent ruling was simply a bump in the road in an emailed statement.

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“While this is 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. The County looks forward to the completion of the legal hearing, and the judge’s ruling on the merits,” the statement read.

Seven of the townships filed the initial complaint in December, just months before the health department even came to be. Middletown Township later joined in on the suit.

Spiros has scheduled the final hearing for the case on May 25.

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