Layers of regulation leave some business owners asking why
Fourth in a series.
First, we summarized the issues to be discussed. What happens when an unconventional business tries to get off the ground? And we see them every day on the roads…what kind of regulations do truck drivers face? Tomorrow, the conclusion, inside a community bank, as they work through the latest financial legislation.
Talk about the economy often comes back to small business – everything from a landscaping company to an Internet start up. They’re subject to government regulations, just like every other business in the country. You’ve heard about the challenges in getting a pet day care off the ground in Norman, and what a trucking company goes through. Today, we visit another day care, this time for kids, in Stillwater…
The list of agencies regulating a child day care facility is long. You have the usual city, county and state regulations that every business, no matter their industry, must comply with. But when parents are dropping off their kids with a stranger, they want to know they’re going to get taken care of.
“I think regulations are good in keeping kids safe. I know there are a lot of important ones. But I think there should be some common sense.”
This is Andi Riggs. She runs Oak Tree Children’s Academy in Stillwater along with her mother Bobbie.
In one room, there’s the toddlers playing with staff members, while in another, the 2 year olds are getting some nap time in. Time and time again, Andi stressed to me, regulation can be good. But there were also things like this:
“One example was our fencing, the city requires 4 inch gaps, and DHS requires 3 and a half. We looked under fencing and didn’t find that, but under entrapment we did. So after we built a pretty black wrought iron fence in the front, we went back and sautered 90 metal bars to close the gap.”
That meant a weekend spent adding half inch strips of wood between each divider on the fence to get in compliance. Or this:
“It’s for frying fires, we don’t fry food, we serve a lot of fresh food. But you have to have one and it was 11,000 dollars so that was very expensive for our loan and makes our costs go up.”
She calls the fire suppression system one very expensive magnet holder. Oak Tree is classified as a commercial kitchen by the city – which uses an international standard. Michael Roberts, with the city’s Building Safety Division, says a fire system like that would only be required if grease fires were a possibility. Andi argues they aren’t, and she has to pass on those costs.
“I knew there were a lot of DHS requirements, we first started there. We got the handbook, it’s 111 pages. But I didn’t necessarily know we were under the fire marshal, the city, the health department since we are a commercial kitchen, so we had a lot of learning to do.”
To cover their bases for DHS, every person working at Oak Tree does 20 hours of online training. That’s on top of the staff training inside the converted ranch style home on Western Road in Stillwater.
“We’ve gotten used to it. All our teachers are trained very well in the DHS regulations, and that’s the one that really affects us daily.”
Andi says once they got past the construction costs, she doesn’t see increased costs because of regulation. What she does see is a lot of additional work. Just before I had arrived, Andi said they got a brand new booklet from DHS.
“That’s 20-25 pages there of double sided pages, so you’re going back to school every year.”
“Yeah there’s always learning.”
All of these conversations come back to common sense. What that means for each business owner can be different though. What is clear to Andi is she doesn’t need a fire system in a kitchen that is far from a restaurant kitchen, and wants better coordination. With that, she says, she wouldn’t have had to pester inspectors and regulators about every little thing. And maybe, she could’ve saved some money, passing on the lower rates to her customers.