Commission Rejects Proposed Tiered Fee Structure, Retains Flat Rate
The Harrodsburg City Commission voted to increase the city’s occupational license fee to $100 from $25. However, the commission removed language from the amended ordinance that would have implemented a three tier structure based on the number of employees in favor of businesses paying the same flat rate regardless of their labor force.
They also voted to charge retail and food vendors a $25 three-day event license. The event license also applies to food trucks at local bars and other locations. Vendors could pay $100 for multiple events. The city also charges a $75 unloading license for delivery trucks servicing the area.
In addition to changing the license fee rate structure, the amended ordinance will create an enforcement procedure, allowing the code enforcement officer, the city police and building inspector to issue citations for violators.
Commissioner Jennifer Kazimer proposed the amendment based on feedback from local business owners at a public hearing on Friday, Nov. 19. At the hearing, the consensus seemed to be that merchants were opposed to the tiered license fee structure, but agreed that the fee needed to be increased and enforcement needed to be beefed up.
“I’m for a flat fee,” Kazimer said. “Just because we’ve always done it that way. It’s just easier.”
“Personally, I don’t think a flat fee is fair,” said Commissioner Adam Johnson, who proposed the three tier structure. “I don’t think those shops should be paying the same fee as Corning.”
Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham said he’d spoken with several business owners and they supported the flat fee as well as the three day event vendor fee.
Kazimer said some have suggested basing the fee on revenue.
“No matter how we look at it, it’s never going to be fair to everybody,” Kazimer said. “It’s been acceptable all these years.”
Kazimer said the bigger issue is how the city enforces the ordinance.
Brian Allen, chief of the Harrodsburg Police Department, said he was uneasy with some aspects of enforcing the ordinance.
“I’m not comfortable with my officers handling money,” Allen said.
Kazimer said police would ask for a license and issue a citation, but would not collect money. For the code enforcement officer, it would be no different than issuing citations for not mowing yards, Kazimer said.
Clarifying the issue, City Attorney Norrie Currens said the amendment includes penalties and interest but not necessarily a fine. Currens said the money would be paid to city hall, not the officers.
Allen said he was worried about damaging the relationship between his department and the local business community.
“I worry about a black eye for the city police department,” Allen said.
Commissioner Isham said they are mainly looking at contractors and vendors from outside the community.
“We don’t want to harass people,” Isham said.
Currens said many outside vendors as well as Airbnbs are not paying license fees. She also said the city needs to increase efforts at informing vendors they need to pay the fees.
“I’ll be the first to say our ordinances are not the easiest thing to find,” said Currens, who said the license fee ordinance also is available online. She said they will need to provide event planners with packets.
Johnson, who was serving as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Billy Whitenack, asked for a motion. Kazimer moved to amend the occupational license to a flat fee of $100. Isham seconded. The motion passed 2 to 1 with Johnson voting against it.