Green Park OKs committee to study business licenses

Incorporation leader, chamber president address board about business licenses

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Green Park Board of Aldermen last week formally established a committee to study business licenses.

The board also named Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston chairman of the panel and authorized Thuston to appoint a minimum of six members to the committee. Thuston announced the appointments of five members to the committee at the Board of Aldermen’s Nov. 19 meeting.

Of the five committee members appointed, three — Don Bley, Cindy Summers and Jack Mika — represent residents and two — Jeff Budrovich and Hank Block — represent businesses. Thuston said he plans to appoint another business representative.

Ward 3 Alderman Mark Hayden cast the sole “no” votes on the formation of the committee and the naming of Thus-ton as chairman.

“… I voted against the whole process actually — nothing personally against the members nor the chairman. I didn’t have a problem with either one of those,” Hayden told the Call. “I just was against the forming of the committee.”

Hayden, currently serving his fourth two-year term as alderman, noted that the issue of business licenses has been discussed several times in the past by the board, but aldermen 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.

“… We’ve been down this road a couple times and every time we get down the road, there’s never a full explanation of what we’re going to do with the money when we raise it or what we’re going to spend it on,” Hayden said. “We’ve even discussed are we going to add an extra police officer; we’re going to do what? But to make it count, we’re going to have to put a pretty sizable amount against the businesses.

“So it’s either we charge them 25 bucks and that’s going to be a waste of time, or we charge them per square foot or whatever and then it’s actually going to start hurting some of the businesses. So until someone explains to me what we’re going to do with the money when we raise it or why we need it … nobody’s explained that. So that’s why I’ve been against the process.”

Though Hayden opposes the process, he believes Thuston will do a good job as chairman of the committee.

“… I think he’ll do a fine job with this committee,” he said. “I’m hoping that they’ll come out with something and they’ll actually look at it and say: ‘Do we need this or do we not need this’ and be able to make a good recommendation to the board and the board can take a sensible look at it and not follow the lead of every city out there.”

During a period for public comment, the issue of business licenses was addressed by resident Fred Hoehn, who led the effort to incorporate the city, and Green Park Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smoot, a historical opponent of business licenses.

“… I don’t think any of you were involved in the incorporation of the city — some of you didn’t live here,” Hoehn said. “The reason I mention that is this grand endeavor for business licenses is very important to the city. The first — one of the first appointed officials I gave a package to them of the financial structure — the basic financial structure of the city of Green Park when I went before the County Council to bring it to a vote. The County Council had compared erroneous cities — they didn’t do a very good job — and they had a lot of ammunition that they didn’t get to use.

“After that was over, this particular appointed city official was given this financial information about the structure of the city. It should be here somewhere, but I doubt if it is because the person never understood it to start with … I had the information up until recently … I’ve got it here,” Hoehn said, pointing to his head. “The information does exist. It exists in the county government seat. My suggestion is, No. 1, somebody look at that. No. 2, if you don’t have someone on the committee that has a strong financial background, you sure as heck better find somebody because if you make a mistake at this, you will be cutting the throats of every citizen in the city of Green Park.

“I’ve watched various people come and go and I’ve watched a lot of mistakes made financially to help the city. So my only real plea is that this is done carefully and it’s done with a focus on improving the lives of the citizens of Green Park because that’s the major thrust. That’s why this city was brought into existence and I have to reiterate, if it’s done wrong, you will forever sentence this city to mediocrity,” he said.

Mayor Tony Konopka asked Hoehn, “Would you mind working with us and working with the chair in this?”

Hoehn agreed to assist Thuston and the committee.

Smoot said, “… Quite frankly, I agree with Mr. Hoehn here. We do need some financial experts to advise this committee and I think the first one would be the treasurer of the city of Green Park because I invite this look at the business community every couple of years because if you have any expertise whatsoever and you rely on financial people, you will find that is a rich city, not a mediocre city.

“This is a city that has a business community that contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city’s coffers. So I anticipate that when Mr. Thuston and the committee and the financial expert, hopefully the treasurer of the city of Green Park, that they can show that the business community does contribute to the lives of the citizens of Green Park …”

Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach later asked that a representative of the city’s auditing firm provide an overview of the city’s finances to the business license committee.

Thuston later complimented Hoehn and Smoot for addressing the board.

“I compliment the citizens that come to these meetings and have the guts to stand up and make their comments in an open forum,” he said. “We have a forum like this that’s for our citizens to speak and talk up, and when they have a lot to contribute to the city and they don’t stand up and talk, it’s a little divisive and it causes I think a lot of anxiety for a lot of people. And it’s frustrating when those of us are trying to be in a position of helping the city are doing so and there’s so many that just sit back and cause problems and stew in their juices, write letters, write e-mails and don’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and act like men or women …”