CHESTER - Chester City Council wants more cooperation and less aggravation when it comes to business licenses.
Councilman John Woodruff said Monday that local business owners have been complaining to him about companies that do business in the city without obtaining the necessary license.
"Business people are mad. A lot of companies are coming into town that don't have a license," Woodruff said, noting that he wants the police department to step up enforcement of the city's licensing requirements. "It's not our job as council to enforce it."
While council did not resolve the issue, members agreed there should be tighter enforcement and clearer criteria for who needs a license.
"We need a better definition of where to draw the line," Mayor Ken Morris said. "How far are you going to go? You can only enforce it so far."
Council discussed whether suppliers who make deliveries in the city need a license, or whether seasonal businesses, such as landscaping companies, need a license.
"You guys would be shocked at how many people come through town with mowers and weed eaters (that don't get a license)," Councilman Steve Shuman said.
"It's not just out-of-town people who are not buying business licenses," Woodruff said.
City Clerk Sandra Parkins said she recently sent letters to 22 businesses reminding them that if they're going to do business in the city, they need to get a license.
"I just see them going through town," she said. "I continually work on it."
The average business license costs $25 but can run anywhere from $5 to $500, Parkins said. Private clubs pay $500.
Parkins recently sent letters to 284 businesses, both local and out-of-town, who had licenses last year, asking them to renew. City business licenses follow the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Last year, business licenses generated $14,000 for the city's general fund, Parkins said.
Morris suggested council look at how other West Virginia cities handle the issue. In the meantime, Police Chief Ken Thorn said, "There's nothing wrong with a friendly reminder."
In other business, council accepted a bid from Juszczak Construction, of Chester, to handle the demolition of the old Fineman Department Store building at 505 Carolina Ave. The vacant building, which last housed Taco Huey's Restaurant & Lounge, is scheduled for demolition by the end of the month.
The city purchased the property for $50,000 in May. A $16,000 economic development grant from the state of West Virginia will pay for the demolition. Juszczak Construction was the lowest of three bidders at $15,460.
Morris has said he envisions an office or medical building in the space where Fineman's used to be.
Also Monday, council agreed to give $500 to bolster a summer reading and nutrition program for children. The Energy Express program, which is administered by the Hancock County Office of the West Virginia University Extension Service, is feeding 80 children at two sites this year.
Extension board member Laura Greathouse came to city council Monday asking for help because some anticipated funding fell through.
"This completely blind-sided us. We had no time to plan," Greathouse said.
The $500 from city council will cover the cost of delivering the meals - breakfast and lunch - from First United Methodist Church in Weirton to the two program sites - Weir Middle School and Oak Glen Middle School.
"The food does no good sitting in the kitchen. It has to be delivered to the kids," Greathouse said.
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