Part-time vendors in the city of Joseph may get a shock when they apply for a license in 2020. The city is considering a substantial jump in fees for the coming year.
City Administrator Larry Braden brought up the subject at the city’s council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12.
The city is also considering a new park at the north end of Joseph that offers amenities unavailable at the city’s present park at the south end of town.
Braden said such amenities may include a dog park. An audience member who lives near the proposed site wondered if noise would be considered and Mayor Teresa Sajonia said when the planning got to that point it would be considered along with usage hours and other regulations.
In response to an audience question about the park, Braden said a citizen contacted the city and asked if the city would be interested if the caller offered to donate land for the park.
After some negotiations, the citizen agreed to have the city draw up a contract with a property description to transfer the title.
According to the mayor, the property had once served as a park and housed baseball fields as well. She added that the project would eventually entail much citizen involvement and public meetings as well.
“We’ll try to make it as pleasing to everyone as we possibly can do,” she said. “Nothing will get done without public meetings.”
Under unfinished business, Sajonia said the city staff had spent some time researching transient merchant licenses in order to develop a fee schedule, which included fee comparisons with other cities.
The vendor fee hike is a part of city resolution 2019-23 which covers fees for the city’s administrative services, including administrative, business and land use services. The vendor fees fall under the business category.
The city staff suggested the annual license fee for non-commercial food vendors (such as raw fruit or vegetable sales) at $375 while commercial food vendors (such as prepared foods) pay $475 per year. Sajonia said the $375 fee matched with the low end of Chief Joseph Days vendor fees. She asked Becky Rushton, co-owner of the Outlaw Restaurant and Saloon, who said that food vendors pay $375 while booth fees vary.
“That’s just way too low for a whole annual year,” Rushton said. “Those people (the CJD vendors) do it for four days, and to think you’re going to do it on an annual basis for that amount of money, I just think that seems really, really, really low.” Sajonia, who owns Embers Brew House in Joseph, agreed and said she had the same response, even though she admitted the suggested fees were at the high end of what other municipalities levy against vendors. Rushton took it one step further.
“I think if we put moratoriums on other things, we should put them on that too,” Rushton said. “In other words, if you can’t have air bnb’s and that sort of thing, then I don’t think we should have transient vendors.”
“That’s harsh,” an attendee said. Another audience member agreed.
Rushton remained defiant. “It’s no different than people not wanting parks,” she said and giggled. An ensuing discussion with Sajonia revealed that the city of Bend charges $110 per year less than Joseph’s prospective vendor fees.
Sajonia referred the matter to council discussion. Council member Pearl Sturm said she didn’t have a problem with the fee schedule. New member, Richard Pointer, thought the research and schedule sufficient. Sajonia took on her self-described role as “devil’s advocate” and said she had a hard time believing a food cart in Bend “only” paid a $375 fee. Braden said the amount is what the city requires and doesn’t take space rental fees into account.
Rushton argued that some local businesses allow food carts on their property without paying extra for sewer and water. She then alleged if she had such booths on her Indian Lodge Motel property, she would immediately be charged. She also said the city lost revenue with transient vendors.
Audience member Kathy Norman suggested the city not raise rates so high that it alienates vendors and also suggested the city could rent vendor spaces as well. Kathy Bingham suggested the city did not own enough Main Street property to rent to vendors and that if private property owners wanted to allow licensed vendors, it was none of the city’s business — unless vendors were banned.
The mayor said the vendor fees were instituted in order that the city recoup fees it would not receive otherwise. She added it was the city’s responsibility to protect local businesses from vendors who operate only during lucrative summertime months while permanent businesses pay street, sewer and water fees, even during winter months.
“Does that $375 cover what those people did (the permanent businesses)?’ Sajonia asked. Rushton said that as head of the CJD booths, she often has local business owners ask how much money the city is making from vendors while local businesses lose money on the biggest weekend of the year.
After more discussion, the council unanimously passed 2019-23 with the exception of the transient vendor fees, which will undergo more research and investigation.