Green Park Chamber of Commerce members willing to pay annual fee

Alderman Thuston asks that business-license issue be put on board agenda

By MIKE ANTHONY

Green Park Chamber of Commerce members would be willing to pay “an annual registration fee” to the city for their businesses, according to chamber President Jim Smoot.

During a recent meeting of a Green Park committee studying business licenses, Smoot said that chamber members “voted that they would be happy to pay an annual registration fee.”

The Board of Aldermen voted in November to establish the panel to study business licenses and named Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston chairman.

Green Park officials have discussed business licenses on and off since 1996 and as recently as 2003, but never have established a requirement that city businesses obtain a license.

Past discussions have ranged from establishing business licenses that included a provision for city merchants to pay the city an “annual license tax or fee” based upon each $1,000 of gross receipts or simply having an administrative business license.

During the April 14 meeting, Thuston said if he could make a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen, he likely would recommend some type of administrative business license. During the April 21 Board of Aldermen meeting, Thuston asked that the issue of business licenses be placed on the board’s May 19 agenda.

“… I’m going to basically tell the board what we’ve come up with thus far, which I haven’t had an awful lot of citizen input, why we need to have this …,” Thuston told committee members. “I think if I can make one recommendation myself it would be to put in place an administrative license of some sort. And we would accomplish the fact of being able to promote our businesses, our local businesses, have a registration of where they are, who they are and have a tool in place where we know how and who we can promote to the citizens and among the citizens of Green Park and give the businesses a voice as well …”

Thuston later said, “… My position now is just take this information, present it to the board … tell them where we’re at, what we’ve come up with thus far and ask them — all this is is a fact finding.

“(Mayor) Tony (Konopka) had asked me back in November or December to put this together and just kind of pull some facts out, look at the study that was done in ’03, get some involvement, listen to people, hear what they have to say and that’s about where we’re at today.

“I don’t think we’re going to make any more earth-shattering developments at this point … What more can we do?”

The committee studying business licenses has been meeting since January, and business representatives at each meeting of the panel have voiced their opposition to establishing a license.

But at the April 14 committee meeting, Smoot announced that Chamber of Com-merce members had voted “that we would accept, with joy, an annual registration so that the city does have whatever list they need. Now we all know that this list is available from many different places. I faxed you a list from AmerenUE … and they gave us a list of every business and they could even tell you what tax they paid and the address and the names and phone numbers, but if the city feels like they want to do the extra work, which is mailing out 400 applications and stamps and envelopes and bringing them back into City Hall and doing whatever they want to do with them, the Chamber of Commerce members voted that they would be happy to pay an annual registration fee.

“And the reason we call it an annual registration instead of a business license is be-cause I really do feel that you can use the fact that there’s no business license in this city to help fill these stores that are vacant. If you look at all the money that comes in from the budget, it is all from businesses of some type. The more businesses that we have instead of vacancies, the more financially successful this city will be,” the chamber president added.

Thuston said, “… We said a few meetings ago, Jim, is that promotion of this city is vital I think to all of us, particularly the citizens who own property here and the businesses who own property here. We have to help promote and make it more enticing for other businesses to move in and fill these empty spots versus going up to neighboring communities that may have somewhat of these unfair business-license issues involved. I think it’s important for all of us to figure out how we can help promote — how we can help promote the businesses in the area and make it more inviting for other businesses to move in here.

“The chamber’s been here for some time and I don’t know why if we haven’t had a businesses license, again, why it hasn’t promoted it in the past because there hasn’t been a business license. There hasn’t been a registration fee and they haven’t promoted the city,” he added.

Smoot said, “Well, I’d have to disagree with that to an extent because we have brought people to the city whether they’ve put a development together or not. You can look at TriStar when they tried to put a development together for two years. They failed. We’ve worked with Marv Gibbs, who the Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that his new Lion’s Choice and Golden Corral go in. We’ve worked with QuikTrip over the years. They were in the wrong parcels of ground, but Planning and Zoning has now recommended that QuikTrip go in down here …”

Konopka later noted that since he was elected mayor in April 2007, city officials have been working to improve the relationship between the city and the business community. The establishment of the committee studying business licenses is another example of that, he said.

“… That’s why we’re here tonight. When the matter of business licenses came up, it’s something that we could have just run to the board and the board voted on it and we could have made something up,” Konopka said. “But no, I wanted to set up this committee so that we could have a dialogue between residents and businesses.

“So yes, I am trying to see that the businesses do have a voice … I’m trying to get more where the businesses can have a say-so. It’s not perfect. It’s not happening overnight, but I think we are taking steps in that … My objective is just to maintain a very good residential base, but in doing so, you also have to have a good commercial — we have to have a good commercial area and I think one just feeds on the other. So both are needed and we’re trying to work toward that end. Of course, it won’t happen overnight,” the mayor added.