Photo by Cindy Barks.
Originally Published: May 4, 2016 6:02 a.m.
PRESCOTT – After years of broaching the topic, and then extensive discussion over the past three months, the Prescott City Council approved a business license for the city this week.
The Tuesday, May 3, decision did not occur without plenty of dissension, however. The motion for implementation of the license passed with a 4-3 vote, as did the other motions related to the action.
At the same meeting, another controversial city ordinance – imposing a ban on feeding wildlife – also gained council approval in a split vote, this time with a 5-2 vote. That ordinance will become effective in 30 days, and will make it illegal to feed wildlife, such as “bears, javelina, deer, coyotes, or/and mountain lions.”
Approval of the business license means that beginning in December 2016 and running through January 2017, businesses that operate in the city will need to register with the city and pay a $35 annual fee.
City Councilmen Greg Lazzell, Steve Blair, and Jim Lamerson opposed the license, while Mayor Harry Oberg, and Councilmembers Billie Orr, Jean Wilcox, and Steve Sischka voted for it.
Lazzell, who has been a strong opponent of the business license all along, maintained that businesses already register with a host of professional boards, state agencies, and internet sites. “If you want to know who’s doing business in Prescott, it’s on your phone,” he said.
But Councilwoman Jean Wilcox stressed the public-safety aspects of the license. The information from the license “will tell our fire department if there’s hazardous materials on site,” she said. “It will let them know what to watch for.”
The council also heard from a number of local residents – speaking for and against the new license.
While Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO David Maurer voiced support for the license, several owners of bars/restaurants and other businesses maintained that the business would do nothing to help them.
Noting that “no system is perfect,” and the business license might require adjustments, Maurer said the Chamber board has taken a stand in favor of the license.
Most importantly for the Chamber are the economic-development advantages that the license would offer, Maurer said noting, “It’s a common question: How many businesses are in your city? What types of businesses are in your city? We don’t have the answers to those questions.”
But several local bar owners brought up the long-discussed liquor license that the city already charges to establishments that sell alcohol.
“We are the only industry in this city that pays an annual fee in order to do business,” Roxane Nielsen of the Prescott Brewing Company told the council, noting that the Brewing Company’s annual fee totals $662.
“We already pay a license fee to this city; we don’t need to pay another $35,” she added.
And Tommy Meredith of the Jersey Lilly Saloon pointed out that previous city officials had promised that if the city were to implement a business license, the city’s liquor-license fee for bars would go away.
Mayor Harry Oberg said the city would look into the liquor-license issue.
The possibility of implementing a registration program for businesses has come up numerous times over the years, but previous councils have never moved forward with the program.
Starting in February 2016, the city began revisiting the issue, and the current council conducted a series of public discussions over the past three months.
With this week’s approval of the license, city officials will now begin developing the program to be ready for registration by the end of the year.
Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill told the council, “It’s a huge project to get this up and running.”
After the meeting, Woodfill said the implementation of the program would require a number of tasks, such as developing forms and a website, and public education about the system.
The business license is scheduled to become effected Jan. 1, 2017. Woodfill said registration would begin Dec. 1, 2016, and would run through Jan. 31, 2017.
Watch for more coverage of the business license and wildlife-feeding ban in The Daily Courier and at dCourier.com.