Food truck fees dominate council discussions

April 16—Although there were only two items on the Ironton City Council agenda, there were lengthy discussions about food truck fees and the city’s future financial situation.

Amanda Cleary raised the issue of high fees for food trucks to be installed in the Town of Ironton that were passed by council in January.

Food trucks must pay a $50 application fee and a $250 fire inspection fee.

Cleary, an event planner, said she was all for fire safety, but she didn’t like the burden placed on food trucks a few months before summer events. She said that in her opinion, it was less about fire safety and more about municipal tax revenue.

“I don’t understand isolating small business food trucks by charging a $300 fee for their inspection when there is no fee for a fire inspection for a brick and mortar restaurant” , she said.

She said the food trucks provide unique and fresh options, attract visitors from other communities, support the Ironton community, and have the potential to become brick-and-mortar businesses.

She said the fees have a direct effect on those trying to organize community events like Granny’s 420 Block Party, St. Joseph’s Charity Fair, Third and Center’s Summer Solstice, the Ohio River Revival and Wizardfest, all of which rely on vendors. of food. to succeed.

“These out-of-town trucks can’t afford inspection fees and event fees, plus any code-required upgrades,” Cleary said, adding that as a scheduler for the Third and Center Solstice event, she can’t invite thousands of guests if they don’t have a way to feed them.

She suggested that it would be best for the city to institute a business license for trucks to operate in the city and should be phased so that small business operators can afford it.

Vice Mayor Chris Haney said the council looked at fees charged by other towns and didn’t think it was fair to charge so much money, so they came up with ‘a decent number’ considering the taxes imposed on brick and mortar stores in the city pay. He said brick-and-mortar restaurants complained to board members about food trucks that came into town and paid nothing and took business away from them.

“We tried to put together a good faith effort to make every game happy,” he said. “We want food trucks here, but we need to have some type of structure for them to come in and everyone is okay with that.”

Cleary said that by creating a business license, the food truck would pay taxes based on its sales and that the food trucks don’t take anything away from the brick and mortar restaurants in Ironton because they offer different things, often homemade or vegan options, which are not available in town.

Councilman Nate Kline said restaurants pay a state inspector $50 for their inspections as well as municipal fees that include fire protection and police and cost about $200 to $250 a year.

He said he thought food truck fees were viable and supported them, but at the same time he could support his ideas since food trucks don’t need to be protected all the time. year by the city.

“I agree and I think there should be something temporary,” Kline said and added that he was open to discussing the matter further with her.

Haney suggested setting up a Strategic Planning Commission meeting to discuss the issue and the possibility of putting in place something like a three day permit and Councilor Chris Perry suggested it should be a joint meeting with the Trade-Industry Committee. Councilman Jacob Hock said he would host the meeting.

Jim Tordiff, a former member of the city council, spoke about the future of the city’s finances and how, according to figures from the Ministry of Finance, unless revenues are increased to cover expenses, in five years , the city would spend $6.08 million more than was introduced and things would be “out of whack in the general fund.”

He said that when he was on council two years ago they all agreed that things were going to be bad for the general fund and that a number of things had been put on the ballot and voters did not adopt them.

He said he understood that according to the city charter, the city could not go into debt.

He said it looks like the only thing that changed was that the city got federal COVID-19 money that helped the general fund, but it was a windfall that only happens. once.

“I don’t know how the five-year forecast is going to be corrected, but I doubt it’s $6 million,” Tordiff said.

Haney said the city has been in the dark for two years.

Tordiff said if there is enough revenue to meet general fund needs, the problem is solved, but he doubts that because prices keep rising.

Chief Financial Officer John Elam said he would have more details on an updated forecast within the next two weeks.

Kline said the forecast was conservative and the general fund was in better shape than five years ago when the city was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He said income tax revenues increased by $700,000 without raising taxes or additional fees.

He also said there may be a need for cost-of-living adjustments to municipal fees in the future.

Kline said health insurance costs this year were lower than expected and that also helped offset costs.

“I think overall over the last five years, and not just with the COVID money, we’re seeing an overall increase in revenue that’s greater than what we anticipated,” he said, adding that he expected the forecast to change for the better.

In agenda items, council filed an ordinance dedicating part of Washington Street and approved a contract for police to patrol Ironton Metropolitan Housing locations.

Ironton City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.

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