Ash Flat's ordinance charging billboard owners annual fees for billboards located in the city is one step closer to enactment.
The council unanimously voted to accept the first reading of the ordinance at the Feb. 27 council meeting, but not without making some changes beforehand.
Sign owners will be charged 10 cents per square foot of advertising space. City businesses with billboards on the same property advertising their business will be excluded from the annual fee. It will be the first law of its kind in the state.
Cleatus Wiles, owner of Wiles Outdoor Advertising, the owner who will be most affected by the ordinance, said most of billboard structures have four faces which are 10 feet by 24 feet each. Wiles said he has five structures in the city limits of Ash Flat. Only one stands on his property. He pays rent for the other space, he said.
Beauty shops, barbers, abstract and title companies, livestock auctions, doctors' offices, daycares and attorneys are all exempt from tax, although all business owners, including Wiles, pay income tax.
City attorney Larry Kissee had warned the council that billboard owners would fight back, possibly in court, if the council proceeds with the ordinance. The legal battle could cost the city more than the tax would bring in, he said.
The council discussed increasing the fees but decided not to.
"I personally don't see any need to charge more than 10 cents, myself," Alderman Jeral Lesley said.
The fees for 2006 will be due by June 1, 2006. In the following years, the fees will be due Jan. 1. Billboard owners who do not pay the annual fee will be charged $100 per violation under the proposed ordinance.
The council voted to have Kissee review a proposed ordinance regulating peddlers and solicitors in the city. The council made changes to the proposed ordinance at the Feb. 28 meeting.
The ordinance defines a peddler as "any person, whether a resident of this city or not, traveling by foot, wagon, automobile, motor truck or any type of conveyance, from place to place, from house to house, or from street to street, selling or attempting to sell, or taking or attempting to take orders for the sale of goods, wares and merchandise, personal property or any nature whatsoever for the future delivery or for services to be furnished or performed in the present or in the future."
License fees under the ordinance would be $100 per day or $700 per week. Anyone violating the ordinance will be charged $500 per day if the ordinance passes.
Peddlers would not be allowed to enter private premises after 9 p.m.
The fees for all items more than $1,000 in value will be doubled under the proposed ordinance.
Solicitors must file their intent in City Hall 10 days before they plan to "solicit funds or other gifts of value in the city for any philanthropic, religious or public service project." The solicitors must disclose the nature and the purpose of the project to which funds are to be used.
Those who sell produce they raised themselves will not be charged the fee, Hall said.
The council accepted a $6,800 bid from Olshan Foundation Repair and Waterproofing of Little Rock to repair the north wall of City Hall that is cracking in several places. The work includes a lifetime guarantee.
The council promoted Tracy Breckenridge to assistant water/sewer superintendent. He received an increase in pay of $2 an hour. When he completes some additional training he will receive an additional 50 cents per hour.
The council adopted a policy for the police department prohibiting profiling anyone based on race.