Residents of Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties likely will be paying higher fees beginning this summer to help emission-inspection stations offset the cost of new computerized testing equipment.

The current maximum $9 fee could be increased from between $12 to $15, according to members of an Inspection/Maintenance Advisory Board, who support the price hike for annual emission tests."The general consensus of the I/M Board is that the fee should be in the $12 range. Our position is that a $14 fee is reasonable," Dr. Harry Gibbons said in a letter to Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi. "It is the unanimous feeling of the I/M Advisory Board that the I/M fee must be the same in all counties."

Gibbons, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department, said the fee increase was promulgated by the 1990 Legislature that passed a bill requiring standardized, computerized emission analyzers.

The law mandates reciprocity between all counties required to have I/M programs and standardized emission standards. In other words, if you live in Salt Lake County, you could have your car tested in Davis or Utah County.

As a result of the bill, the I/M Board was created and has been working for nearly a year to standardize programs in the three counties. Weber County will come into the program in January 1992.

The bottom line is that by July inspection stations must begin using standardized equipment.

"The computer-controlled emission analyzers take the pass/fail decision out of the hands of mechanics," said James E. Brande, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department's Bureau of Air Pollution Control. "The testing sequence is also computerized and actually prompts the mechanic through the test so it is done correctly."

But the new emissions analyzer that must be purchased by certified inspection stations is expensive.

To help stations recoup their costs, the I/M Board is recommending the fee increase.

"We know that the fee must be set so that a reasonable profit may be made," Gibbons told Horiuchi.

However, the health director cautioned that a high test fee could attract non-traditional auto repair business.

It could also "cut deeply into the number of tests and associated repairs our current I/M stations are performing and could degrade the quality of repairs and emissions reductions as a result," Gibbons said.

Gibbons wants the proposed fee hike to be discussed in a public hearing, as well as by the Salt Lake County Commission.

Dozens of I/M stations already have commented to the advisory board. In turn, the board has promised it won't recommend another change in analyzers in the next five years.