Green Park panel chair urges administrative fee for businesses

Mayor says aldermen can expect to see administrative fee on future agenda

By BURKE WASSON

The chairman of a Green Park committee that studied the impact of business licenses on the city has recommended that aldermen approve an administrative fee for businesses rather than a license.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to discuss the committee’s recommendations Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — at an aldermanic work session.

The board also is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday, June 16, at City Hall, 11100 Mueller Road.

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston, who chaired the business-license committee, told residents at a recent Board of Aldermen meeting that because of the ambiguous nature and variety of business-license structures throughout St. Louis County, he recommends an administrative fee rather than imposing licenses.

“It is my recommendation that the city have only an administrative fee for all the businesses and not impose a business license on other businesses, especially at a time when they need our help promoting them and not having us as a burden to their bottom line,” Thuston said.

Additionally, he proposed that city officials also develop a directory to promote and describe Green Park businesses.

“There are many forms and types and lists of businesses in the city available from fire department occupancy permits from St. Louis County and the utility companies,” Thuston said. “But there’s no comprehensive list showing where our businesses are and precisely what they do as a business. What we are in need of is a directory that can help us promote our businesses and let them know we’re proud of having them as our neighbors. We don’t know if they’re retailers, manufacturers, offices, service companies, whatever they are. We need to know who they are, where they are and how we can help promote the business.

“I believe an administrative registration that should be issued by the city annually or biannually would be a great step forward to our businesses in the city of Green Park.

“The cost of this registration should be a conservative amount. And if we decide to go in this direction, the business-license committee would help determine the fee and present its recommendations to the board,” he added.

The Board of Aldermen voted in November to establish the panel to study business licenses and named Thuston chairman. The committee began meeting in January. City 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.

Green Park Chamber of Commerce members would be willing to pay “an annual registration fee” to the city for their businesses, according to President Jim Smoot. At a spring meeting of the committee studying business licenses, Smoot said chamber members “voted that they would be happy to pay an annual registration fee.”

Thuston told those present at the May 19 meeting of the Board of Aldermen that through the committee’s series of meetings earlier this year, enough feedback and ideas have been given for the board to finally make a decision.

“We’ve come to a point where I believe the board should make a decision on how we should proceed from here,” he said. “Through the course of our meetings, we had great cooperation from the Chamber of Commerce, many local businesses, citizens and Michael Williams from Hochschild Bloom. He explained to the group about the financial impact of business licenses and how that would impact our city … The city did a wonderfully detailed impact study of business licenses in October of 2003, but there were no results nor actions taken after this was completed.”

Some of the concerns Thuston identified as part of the series of committee meetings are:

• How to spend money generated from business-license fees.

• How much the assessment of a business license would cost to administer.

• The “huge disparity in the types and impositions of business licenses throughout the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County.” Of the county’s 44 fourth-class cities like Green Park, 25 have some form of business licenses and most have a type of registration.

Thuston added that an administrative fee for businesses as well as the development of a business directory would help city officials not only keep track of businesses within Green Park, but also help promote and assist them.

“We need to streamline the way new and existing businesses work with the city,” Thuston said. “The time and the difficulty in dealing with our city represents a big concern and is definitely, to me, the key issue we have as a result of our meetings. And we need something to fix it immediately. There’s a lot of concern from the businesses with the way we do business.”

Another concern mentioned during meetings has been generating revenue to repair and maintain streets, especially at the Green Park Commerce Center.

“The cost of maintaining streets in the Green Park Commerce Center came up as quite a subject,” Thuston said. “The cost of handling these streets in the Commerce Center, the maintenance and repair brought forth the willingness of the Commerce Center to even privatize their streets and pay the costs of improving them and maintaining them themselves provided the city came up with only an administrative fee rather than an imposed business license.”

Thuston added that business owners in the Commerce Center were concerned with the variety of business-license structures used by various cities in the county.

“Their big concern was if you look at the list of all the types of fees and business licenses various communities have, some of them are crazy, they’re wacko,” Thuston said. “They’re so far, they’re not proportionate at all. They’re assessed by sales per year, by square footage or cubic footage, and it’s ridiculous. So I think there was concern there — great concern — that we were going to put something on them that they couldn’t handle.”

Mayor Tony Konopka also emphasized that while Commerce Center business owners once were worried about the proposed business-license structure due to some “misinformation,” they now are open to an administrative fee.

Aldermen can expect to see that proposal on an agenda in the near future, he added.

“I had talked with some of the people over there at the Commerce Center,” Konopka said. “… Some of their concerns were based on some, how would I say, misinformation — inaccurate, incorrect information. We had a discussion and everything was fine. And I don’t think that anybody would be adverse to an administrative-type license.”