For some time, City of Conway officials have considered requiring businesses to obtain licenses in order to operate. A few members of city government recently explained their viewpoints on the licenses.
Assistant to the Mayor Jack Bell said "We’ve looked at several different cities in different states," and there are many methods for administering business licenses.
"Some are complicated, some are not. Little Rock and North Little Rock have real complicated systems," he said.
The simplest way city officials have found is to charge on a sliding scale based on the number of employees the business has, he said.
"You could even generate revenue if you wanted, but we’ll probably start at a low level," he said.
While generating more revenue for the city is one purpose, the driving factors for business licenses are safety purposes and zoning reasons, he said.
"We’ve really been getting encouragement from planning, the fire department and the police department to get this in place," Bell said. "We feel like we’re probably one of very few cities of our size that doesn’t have some kind of business license."
Brian Patrick, director of the Conway Planning Department, said, "From a planning perspective, one big help to us would be (with) zoning issues."
As long as the city has no idea who is opening a business in what area, he said, it has to enforce regulations and permits after the fact, which can be more costly for business owners.
"It benefits the business owner as much as us because it wastes their time trying to get rezoned," Patrick said. "We could prepare regulations, a short handout of regulations to be aware of — sign regulations, lighting, any number of things we have regulations on that we can make businesses aware of on the front end rather than having to correct things after the fact."
Planner Wes Craiglow said the permitting process could also be used for gathering demographic information that the city could potentially use in economic development.
Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said, "As far as firefighter safety, it is important that we know what is in a building."
Requiring business licenses can be a vehicle by which to gather information on what chemicals are stored in a building, as well as the structure’s floor plan.
"It’s important that we know when we send firefighters in for a leak or a fire. Their safety is foremost in our minds," he said.
Officer Sharen Carter, spokesman for the Conway Police Department, said business licenses could benefit both the police department and business owners in case of an emergency police respond to.
"It would be helpful to be able to contact a representative in case of a disaster, property damage, break-in, gas leak, fire, anything catastrophic," she said. "I think it would be a really good benefit for the public servants."
The Conway City Council discussed business licenses at its October meeting. Bell said the city attorney’s office is "tweaking the wording" on a proposal for Mayor Tab Townsell to present to the city council.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)