City: data, not revenue, drives business license idea


News staff writer

June 7, 2006

The Hood River City Council is pondering a business license that could generate about $30,000 in revenue the first year — and gather information for a central database.

On Monday, the elected body will take public comment on the proposal to levy a first-time charge of $50, followed by a $20 annual renewal fee. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on June 12 in the municipal courtroom at the junction of Second and State streets.

“This isn’t about the money. The purpose of the fee is to create a database so we will be able to better protect businesses from fires and other emergencies,” said Bob Francis, city manager.

He estimates there are about 600 businesses of all sizes within the city limits of Hood River. And the application for the license would provide valuable information about any hazardous materials stored inside, as well as contact numbers and physical characteristics of the building.

Francis said last year there was a fire reported in a downtown store, but firefighters did not know who to call so they could get inside. Since they could not see flames or smoke through the front window, they had to track down the owner before entering. Although the report turned out to be unfounded, Francis said it highlighted the need for the database.

“I think this is just one more tool that we could use to provide for the public safety of citizens,” he said.

Francis said the cost of staff time to electronically record information from the application is behind the initially higher cost for the license. He anticipates the city will earn 20-25 percent less each year thereafter.

He said the proposed local fee falls between the $25-$150 charged for licenses in similar-size cities throughout the state.

Exemptions from the local license would be granted for garage sales, part-time child care providers, employees, and companies making deliveries into town but based elsewhere.

When a business owner fills out the application, Francis said the city decides if an inspection of the premises is warranted to address security, structural or safety concerns. For example, he said Fire Chief Jeff Walker might want to check out the storage of any highly flammable products at the site. Although the city would reserve the right for an annual inspection, Francis said that is unlikely to happen.

He said the cost for the first inspection will be covered by the licensing fee. If other visits are warranted, he said the business owner will probably be asked to offset the expenses of staff time, although no monetary amount has yet been decided upon. Francis said once the database is compiled, it could reveal that some businesses have located in areas that are not zoned for the operation. In that case, he said the owner would be required to seek a variance from the planning commission to avoid relocating.

“Certainly, we don’t want people to start up a business and find out they made a mistake and aren’t where they should be. Having this database will also help us make sure the sign code and other ordinances are being followed,” Francis said.

Once the council has heard from the public, the officials will decide whether to adopt the license fee, change the guidelines or reject the idea altogether.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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