After lengthy discussion and a last-minute amendment the city of Cheney’s new business license ordinance was passed 6 to 1 following a third reading during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Under the ordinance, business licenses will be free in 2009. Businesses registering this year will pay $15 in 2010 and $30 in 2011. Certain businesses will be exempt, such as temporary craft booths, and accredited public or private schools and universities, and a reduced fee will apply to businesses making less than $12,000 a year.
Tom Trulove, who raised the single dissenting vote, called for a few modifications before making a decision and proposed two amendments to the resolution. He first moved to exclude from the business license ordinance any landlord with fewer than five rental units, a motion that was accepted 4 to 3 after discussion.
Trulove then called for an exemption for medical professionals, a revision that failed after it was challenged on the grounds that many medical offices sell retail goods subject to sales tax.
Before its adoption, residents were given the chance to voice concerns. Keith Walker argued that, although he owns eight rental units in the city, he owns his properties privately and is not required by state law to have a business license. “I feel that the little guy like myself who is trying to find a little niche to earn a little extra money is being penalized as a private individual.”
Arlene Fisher reiterated to the council the main reason for the licenses – that hundreds of businesses outside the city have conducted business in Cheney of more than $24 million since July 2008 and that some of that sales tax revenue could be recouped if business licenses were put in place.
In other business, council members agreed to pay $2,500 to join the Northwest Intergovernmental Energy Supply after a presentation by Joe Noland of the Cheney Light Department. Noland said that the city’s rising power needs will eclipse what can be offered by the current energy provider, Bonneville Power Administration in coming years.
Under the current contract with BPA, the city can receive power at preferred rates only up to a certain established level. After that level is reached, said Noland, it will be up to the city to obtain additional power at a higher price from BPA or through other means.
A “power pooling” option like NIES would offer an economy of scale and bring down costs, argued Noland, who said he expected nearly 80 percent of neighboring utilities would join in coming months.
The council authorized the police department to apply for a stimulus grant which would provide full entry-level salary and benefits for one police officer for two years. The city would be required to retain any officers hired under the grant for at least 12 months after the grant ends.
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