Elgin cracking down on biz license scofflaws, while council tweaks meetings rules
By Mike Danahey email@example.com July 12, 2012 5:42PM
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:55AM
ELGIN — Enforcing the city’s business license ordinance and tweaks to council meeting rules were among the items discussed at this past week’s city council meeting.
The city’s business license program has been in place since early 2010, but earlier this year the council decided to get serious about enforcing it.
Licenses are based on square footage; they range from $35 for an establishment smaller than 1,000 square feet to $595 for a place that is 40,000 square feet or larger. Nonprofits of less than 500,000 square feet do not have to pay for a license but are required to have one to help the city compile demographic information.
Home businesses of the type where clients visit (home day care and such) or where products are stored that require zoning approval are subject to being licensed.
Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said there are about 2,200 businesses in Elgin, and all but about 200 have complied with the ordinance and paid for business licenses.
Kozal said code enforcement workers have been used to get businesses into compliance by checking the status of operations on their calls. Summer help has done field inspections which uncovered that of 300 businesses thought not to be in compliance, only 82 currently existed.
The city is moving into an enforcement phase, Kozal said, and is sending out letters that re-explain the program, give notice of violation, and notice of a hearing on the matter. If a business pays before a hearing date, no fine is involved, as the city’s intention at this point is not to be punitive, Kozal said.
The first hearings will take place Aug. 1 in the city’s adjudication court. While 39 establishments have been assigned that court date, Kozal said he expects the number of cases will be smaller.
“We fully expect most will comply,” Kozal said.
Businesses that have failed to obtain a license are subject to daily fines of up to $750.
Kozal said that in 2013, the grace period now being offered won’t be extended, and fines will be imposed.
Councilman John Prigge suggested that during the public comment portion of council meetings, council members and staff be allowed to respond to what has been said.
Councilman Rich Dunne noted that in some cases, staff may not be prepared to give an answer on the spot.
Dunne noted that staff members are handing out cards to people with issues to address and asking the people to contact them, but there should be a way to let the public know the results. To that end, he suggested some sort of update on public comment matters.
City Manager Sean Stegall thought that Dunne’s idea of putting such updates on the city’s website would be a possible approach.
As for councilmen responding directly to claims or critiques, Mayor Dave Kaptain said he will use discretion to allow a council member to defend or respond in situations where it’s deemed necessary.
Councilwoman Anna Moeller cautioned about keeping decorum during such exchanges, and the consensus was that any responses should be brief.