The city council dialed down its zero-tolerance policy toward business license delinquencies, voting to charge public relations firm Rubinger Inc. only half of $1,256 late fees and penalties owed after four years of noncompliance.
District 2 City Councilwoman Dianne Fries said the city failed to collect the tax, which owner David Rubinger voluntarily paid this year, after bills came back as undeliverable.
“At the time our policy was that if the letters came back we would delete businesses from the system because they must be closed. We wouldn’t follow up,” she said.
District 6 City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny did not want to let Rubinger off the hook.
“This is the price to do business in our city,” she said. “For four years, to say it’s our problem because they were not notified is setting a dangerous precedent.”
District 3 City Councilman Chip Collins said the owner should have been more proactive — and present.
“He didn’t come to us. He waited for us to send a letter,” he said. “He’s not willing to come here tonight in person and look us in the eye.”
The split bill also split the council in a 2-2 vote, broken by Mayor Eva Galambos, who sided with Fries and District 4 City Councilman Gabriel Sterling. Council members Tibby DeJulio and John Paulson were out of town.
A new code enforcement system follows up on returned mail and other forms of nonresponsiveness, according to Revenue Supervisor Brandon Branham.
In addition, a beefed-up staff will help with in-person visits to office buildings, where scofflaws may hide, which Galambos encouraged.
“We don’t want to micromanage you, but we are concerned,” she said to Branham and Community Development Director Angela Parker.
Meanwhile, residents may get better response time from the police department, which will be putting 14 new cruisers on the road.
The city is allocating $370,000 for new police cars which can use alternate fuel.
“Gas is going up and propane is going down,” Police Chief Terry Sult said about a $2 — and growing — price difference.
In addition to environmentally friendly benefits, the converted engines have an added attraction for patrol officers.
“The officers like it because it’s a higher octane. It gives a little bit more pep to the car,” Sult said.