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Business owners speak, license goes down

 


More than a dozen local business owners came to Havre City Hall to tell the Ordinance Committee what they thought of the business license ordinance until the committee voted to table the issue.

Tuesday night's meeting, held to discuss the latest business license proposal, was so well-attended that it was moved in the council room.

Business owners came to the meeting to tell the committee that they thought the business license, as proposed, was a bad idea for several reasons.

"I don't think we need it, " said Tony Dolphay, owner of Havre Muffler Brake. "I think it's a waste of time. If you've ever owned a business, you know what I mean. "

Dolphay had been to a couple of the business license discussions before, even attending the last full City Council meeting on Nov. 15 to tell the committee and the other council members about his skepticism of the license proposal and the reasoning behind it.

In response to the idea that the city needs the license to know where businesses are, Dolphay printed out a list of what he said was all of the businesses in Havre, compiled from Chamber of Commerce information and the phone book, with address, phone number and contact person, for the committee.

Gary Reighard of North Star Dodge said it wasn't just a license.

"The initiation of a business license is just the initiation of a tax, " Reighard said. "And once you get people willing to pay it, you can jack it up. "

He said he feared that what is now a $25 fee could soon be 10-times that.

Councilman and Committee Chair Andrew Brekke said that the fee wasn't that important, and he isn't too dedicated to there being a fee anyway.

"I don't even know what the fee is for, " Brekke said.

Reighard was the first of several business owners to bring up the perception that this ordinance is not about zoning, or business growth, but just a way to deal with new medical marijuana businesses.

Through the hour-and-a-half meeting people said the city is trying to punish all other businesses in an effort to control these new medical marijuana facilities.

The committee said that state regulations on the issue have "tied our hands" and won't let the city deal with them directly, so something like this would be necessary.

Medical marijuana was only one of the political issues raised.

Many owners thought the ordinance was just more unnecessary bureaucracy. Rick Neuwerth of Grateful Bread had a 5-point tract, "Common Sense: of Why the City of Havre Doesn't Need A Business License Ordinance. "

Point 2 said, "Creation of another level of bureaucracy that doesn't pay for itself wastes time and manpower during tough economic times and makes no sense even in times of plenty. "

Neuwerth told the committee that if they shut his business down for not registering and paying the fee, as the current proposal suggests, they would be putting six people out of work.

Others suggested that they would not be willing to cooperate with the ordinance.

Bill Evans, owner of Bing N' Bob's Sport Shop, said he felt passionate about this town and didn't want to see it hurt.

"I don't want to be causing trouble, " Evans said. "But I will cause trouble. "

Evans also talked about this being the kind of thing that resulted in so many Democrats losing their positions in this year's midterm elections.

For others, it wasn't political but personal.

Shawn Holden, owner of Holden's Hot Wheels, said he felt the policy was antagonistic to local business.

"I understand why you put some of these things in here, to protect the city, " Holden said. "But as a business owner, the words bite at us. "

At the end of the meeting, both sides agreed that this whole situation had been handled incorrectly.

Reighard offered some retrospective advice.

"If you had just sent a letter and explained your position, you guys would have waxed us, " Reighard said. "Now... ".

Brekke agreed.

"This was a communications and PR thing, " he said. "We're sorry it happened this way. "

More than a dozen local business owners came to Havre City Hall to tell the Ordinance Committee what they thought of the business license ordinance until the committee voted to table the issue.

Tuesday night's meeting, held to discuss the latest business license proposal, was so well-attended that it was moved in the council room.

Business owners came to the meeting to tell the committee that they thought the business license, as proposed, was a bad idea for several reasons.

"I don't think we need it, " said Tony Dolphay, owner of Havre Muffler Brake. "I think it's a waste of time. If you've ever owned a business, you know what I mean. "

Dolphay had been to a couple of the business license discussions before, even attending the last full City Council meeting on Nov. 15 to tell the committee and the other council members about his skepticism of the license proposal and the reasoning behind it.

In response to the idea that the city needs the license to know where businesses are, Dolphay printed out a list of what he said was all of the businesses in Havre, compiled from Chamber of Commerce information and the phone book, with address, phone number and contact person, for the committee.

Gary Reighard of North Star Dodge said it wasn't just a license.

"The initiation of a business license is just the initiation of a tax, " Reighard said. "And once you get people willing to pay it, you can jack it up. "

He said he feared that what is now a $25 fee could soon be 10-times that.

Councilman and Committee Chair Andrew Brekke said that the fee wasn't that important, and he isn't too dedicated to there being a fee anyway.

"I don't even know what the fee is for, " Brekke said.

Reighard was the first of several business owners to bring up the perception that this ordinance is not about zoning, or business growth, but just a way to deal with new medical marijuana businesses.

Through the hour-and-a-half meeting people said the city is trying to punish all other businesses in an effort to control these new medical marijuana facilities.

The committee said that state regulations on the issue have "tied our hands" and won't let the city deal with them directly, so something like this would be necessary.

Medical marijuana was only one of the political issues raised.

Many owners thought the ordinance was just more unnecessary bureaucracy. Rick Neuwerth of Grateful Bread had a 5-point tract, "Common Sense: of Why the City of Havre Doesn't Need A Business License Ordinance. "

Point 2 said, "Creation of another level of bureaucracy that doesn't pay for itself wastes time and manpower during tough economic times and makes no sense even in times of plenty. "

Neuwerth told the committee that if they shut his business down for not registering and paying the fee, as the current proposal suggests, they would be putting six people out of work.

Others suggested that they would not be willing to cooperate with the ordinance.

Bill Evans, owner of Bing N' Bob's Sport Shop, said he felt passionate about this town and didn't want to see it hurt.

"I don't want to be causing trouble, " Evans said. "But I will cause trouble. "

Evans also talked about this being the kind of thing that resulted in so many Democrats losing their positions in this year's midterm elections.

For others, it wasn't political but personal.

Shawn Holden, owner of Holden's Hot Wheels, said he felt the policy was antagonistic to local business.

"I understand why you put some of these things in here, to protect the city, " Holden said. "But as a business owner, the words bite at us. "

At the end of the meeting, both sides agreed that this whole situation had been handled incorrectly.

Reighard offered some retrospective advice.

"If you had just sent a letter and explained your position, you guys would have waxed us, " Reighard said. "Now... ".

Brekke agreed.

"This was a communications and PR thing, " he said. "We're sorry it happened this way. "

 

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