Archived Story

Discussion continues on proposed vendor ordinance

Published 10:17am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Next meeting called for 5 p.m. Wednesday

Between 25 and 30 people filled the Ironton City Council chambers Monday evening as the discussion continued about a proposed ordinance that would regulate vendors during special events.

All council members were present for a public utilities meeting called to discuss the issue. No action was taken on the ordinance and another committee meeting to discuss the issue has been called for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Ironton City Center.

An amended draft of the proposed ordinance was written between this past Thursday’s regular meeting and Monday’s committee meeting. Among the revisions in the latest version of the proposed law are the definitions of vendor, special event, hosting organization and established business.

The proposed ordinance defines vendor as someone who sells items or services or uses city property during a special events.

A special event is any pre-designated event as determined by the mayor, according to the proposed law.

Hosting organization is defined as the organization authorized by the mayor to put on a special event.

The proposed law defines an established business as a business that has been continuously operating for no fewer than 30 days prior to the start of the special event and sells during the special event its normal commodities or services, which were sold prior to the event.

It goes on to say that the hosting organization will set the fees for vendors who set up on city property during the event. Vendors who do business from private property during the event shall pay a fee of $1,500 to the city for a vendors’ permit and otherwise comply with all zoning regulations, the draft ordinance states.

The latest version of the ordinance also includes a section about the penalty for vendors who violate the ordinance. Anyone in violation will be guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $250 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days, the proposed ordinance states.

Mayor Rich Blankenship started the discussion by cautioning the council not to rush into a decision about the proposed ordinance.

“I do think we need to study it and not rush into a decision that will come back and haunt us,” Blankenship said.

The mayor said the council’s decision about the ordinance will likely anger one side of the issue or the other.

“I already know that someone’s going to like it and someone’s not going to like it,” Blankenship said. “That’s just the way life is. I think our job is to do what’s in the best interest of the city now and in the future.”

He asked if the new ordinance would supercede the old ordinance on vendors.

Blankenship also questioned the ordinance’s definition of a special event.

“This says it’s up to the mayor,” Blankenship said. “… How do we define a special event? I don’t know the answer to that.”

The mayor also questioned whether lemonade stands, car washes and the like will be allowed during special events if the ordinance is passed.

Murphy said businesses that typically allow groups to use their property to host car washes and the like will not be subject to the vendors permit fee because they fall within their normal business.

Councilman Bob Cleary suggested amending the ordinance to specify which areas in the city would be subject to a vendors permit, rather than charging the fee for the entire city.

“I think, as the mayor said, you have to have more detailed guidelines but it should be specifically authorizing certain parts of town, not everything owned by the city,” Cleary said.

Murphy said the phrase “for use during the special event” would be added to the section of the ordinance that states that fees will be assessed to those vending from city property.

The mayor also questioned how council decided on the amount of $1,500 for the fee. Murphy said the goal is to have a fee higher than any hosting organization will charge to encourage vendors to stay in one central location.

As for the dispute about use of city property for camping during Rally on the River, the mayor said in the future, if there’s an argument about it, the city should consider taking bids and allow whoever submits the highest bid to use the property.

Blankenship encouraged the council to deal with the vending ordinance before questioning the use of city property for camping sites.

The Friends of Ironton need some level of protection during the events, he said.

The debate about using city-owned property for a campsite continued when Friends of Ironton member Rick McKnight said that council and the mayor had told the organization that it could use property for that reason. The mayor denied it, saying that council did not have the authority to do so.

“The property is not the big thing with me, Rich,” McKnight said. “The thing of it is, we go out and bust our butts… 36 weeks out of the year and spend our own personal money going other places supporting the City of Ironton, getting people to come to the City of Ironton for Rally on the River and Gus Macker and it used to be the Octoberfest. I spent many of my own bucks. All we want is a little bit of protection and all we need is some honesty. We can go tell one person one thing behind their back and another person another.”

McKnight went on to say that the ordinance isn’t about carwashes and birthday parties during the events.

“It’s about vendors,” he said. “It’s not about cheerleaders making an extra nickel some where. … It’s about people coming in for the Rally on the River setting up where they want, not paying anybody and selling the same goods that we’re charging people over here where we control to sell their goods.”

Frog Town owner Mark Rutledge spoke out against the vendors’ fee.

“Well the $1,500 is I think ridiculous,” he said. “You go to any rally anywhere in the United States – Rick has been to a hundred of them like I have – they got vendors on every bar you go to. They got vendors sitting around. For me to pay property tax and everything and all, the water bill and everything I pay and employee tax and all that, then I have to pay a $1,500 vendor fee? I just think it’s unreal.”

Another person asked if the city police would be tied up checking permits during Rally on the River.

Friends member Dave Smith said the organization is bringing in a security company for this year’s event. The Friends typically pay the city and county for the officers it uses during the event, McKnight said.

An audience member argued that the fee would stop the vendors from coming which would eventually stop the event altogether.

“Would you rather the Friends of Ironton go broke putting on the Rally with all the outside vendors coming in and not contributing and move to Huntington or Portsmouth?” Smith said.

The discussion about the ordinance will continue at a public utilities meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Ironton City Center.

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  • NewBusinessowner

    I have to say that reading this makes me sick on both sides! If the City had any smarts about them they would have researched this WAY before 3 weeks before the Rally and if they didn’t want any money coming to Ironton They should have said NO before now. Putting a fee on Vendors isn’t the problem. The problem is putting a high price fee on the business owners in their own city. Many cities Does this but they give the business owner in their city a price break. If this does happen MARK my word Ironton will lose alot of money next year and for a long time after. Because NO Special Event will want to come to Ironton!!! And then everyone will lose money and taxes will go up.

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  • deathdealer

    fyi bikers you can buy beer much cheaper at frogtown than you can at the rally site just sayin..

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  • deathdealer

    it’s time to take a stand against the so called friends of ironton. now it’s apparent it’s all about the benjamins! if this goes through no one should sponsor a darn thing for this drunken stinkfest called rally on the river. what are they spending all this money they say they spend on?? ask to see finanacial records!!

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  • canrunr

    Being a bussiness owner in downtown Ironton, I would like to know how the City or Friends of Ironton, are going to address the parking situation during the event. The parking in front of all the bussinesses on 3rd street are taken up by the consession workers of the event. When I come into work at 8:00 all the spaces are taken up and the people are still in them when we close. How do you think our customers can get to our stores? Mine have had to walk 3 blocks just to get to us. This is not fair. We have supported every event, street fair, carnival, rally, that has been in Ironton for over 70 years, and we continue to be ignored when we ask this question. We might as well be closed during the events because it shuts down our business to a standstill! Unless you are a resturant or a bar these events do not help the city businesses. So while these “events” do bring people to town, they also have a down side by blocking the parking and business of already established store in town, and sends them to the malls!

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  • pursuinghappiness

    Ironton is notorious for running out revenue. If this goes through, they can kiss Rally on the River goodbye. They tax businesses so bad they make it hard for them to stay in business in Ironton. No wonder people close up and move onto other areas of the county to re-open their stores. Leave it to the elected officials in Ironton, to go over the top and try to make excessive amounts of money from the very few things that the town actually has that can bring revenue to the city. Wise up. Like Rich said, “Don’t let this come back and haunt you.”

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  • Digi

    Yea, take a look at Gus Macker, this year they even had to cancel games because there was not enough participation. I agree with Mr. Rutledge, that fee is unreal! But it’s typical Ironton, run out the lil man! And seriously the vendors that are being picked on are the ones that come in and show people that the “friends” are ripping off people with what they charge! Mr. Blankenship, for once stand up and let them know you don’t want to deal with the law suits that will follow a quickly thrown together ordinance.

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