It looked and smelled like a mechanics convention.
But the more than 30 local mechanics and automobile repair shop owners who showed up in grease- and oil-stained pants at Monday's public hearing on proposed changes to the vehicle-emissions inspection regulations were not happy to be there.They all had the same complaint - the proposed increase in the emissions-testing fee is not enough.
The City-County Health Department is proposing to increase the fee from $9 to $12. And to keep pace with new state and federal laws, health officials also want emission-testing stations to start using computerized testing analyzers that cost between $10,000 and $12,000.
Mechanics say the cost of buying the new equipment and operating it will make it unprofitable for them to do testing at the proposed fee.
"I don't think it's fair to ask the business community to do below-cost testing," said James McFarland, owner of Japanese Auto Service.
Besides the cost of the new equipment, mechanics said they will be spending several hundred dollars a year on repairs.
"The county has got to do something to take into account the amount of money we have to pay to keep this equipment up and running," said Steve Wager, owner of Steve's Intermountain Service Center.Most mechanics said the fee needs to be about $15 for them to break even.
"After putting out $12,000 and training a guy to do this work I think I deserve more than to just break even," said Michael Cobia, owner of Lehi Auto Service.
However, Ralph Clegg, assistant director of the City-County Health Department, said a Health Department study shows testing would be profitable at the proposed fee. He said those who say they can't make a profit at the $12 fee are using overestimated labor rates and underestimated test numbers. He asked those who dispute the Health Department's numbers to present a written response showing different figures.
Paul Ashton, president of the Petroleum Retailers Association, said the proposed fee would force many small repair shops out of business.
"A shop will have to do at least 60 tests a month or it will subsidize the program with other repairs," he said.
Even though most mechanics spoke against the proposed fee, most favored the emissions program. Many said they support tighter standards for issuing emissions-repair waivers and some said they would like to see waivers eliminated.
Clegg said the county favors eliminating the waivers but they are established by state law and cannot be changed by local officials.
Other proposed changes are to establish a more stringent standard for hydrocarbons in Utah County, create standards for regulating the switching of engines in tested vehicles and allow Utah County mechanics to test vehicles from other counties.
Another public hearing on the proposed changes will be held Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Provo City Council Chambers.
Written statements also will be accepted until April 30. Health officials plan to have new regulations effective by July 1.