City attorney John Rea presented the council with a summary document at Thursday’s work session outlining alternatives for vendor licenses.
He said currently the city charges vendors $32 for a license, along with a $100 sales tax bond.
Erica Grieve, executive director of the Pell City Chamber of Commerce, told the council last month that the fees are too high, making it hard to get vendors to participate in chamber events, like the Fourth Friday event.
She said events like the Fourth Friday attract people to the historic downtown district and help put them in downtown stores, benefiting local merchants.
Rea presented a couple of options for the council to consider.
He said the cleanest way to do it was just to exempt fees for vendors who participate in non-profit or city sponsored events approved by the City Council.
Rea said another option is to charge a $100 per day fee for organizers, $500 per day for events not approved by the council.
He said organizers would provide a list to the city of the participating vendors, and if someone on the list did not return their sales tax receipts to the city, that vendor could not operate again inside the city. The city could eliminate the sales tax bond requirement.
Council members said vendors should be charged some type of fee, even if it is $10, since some could compete with other businesses in the city, businesses that pay for licenses.
“A $10 license is not much,” Councilwoman Sharon Thomas said.
Councilman Jay Jenkins said downtown merchants may feel like chamber events, the Block Party and Fourth Friday, may benefit their business, but not all businesses are located in the historic downtown district.
“I’m not sure all businesses feel that way,” he said.
Council President James McGowan said he wanted to be fair, and the city could run into problems eliminating fees for some outside vendors while charging license fees for businesses that are in the city.
“I’m not sure if they (the chamber) are speaking for all the businesses here,” McGowan said.
Mayor Joe Funderburg said the city wants to help bring people to the downtown area, so downtown businesses can benefit.
“I agree with Sharon, $10 is not much to ask for,” he said. “…We’ve got people paying for licenses and taxes. We can’t allow someone to come in and cut into their sales.”
“It can’t be free,” he said.
Council members suggested that the chamber could poll businesses in the city or businesses that are chamber members to see how all owners feel about the matter.
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