Monticello may raise license fees

by Anna Thayn

Local business owners in Monticello could see a change in their City licence fee based on a proposal being considered by the Monticello City Council. 

At the October 22 council meeting, a proposal was discussed to increase business license fees to $50.  Several council members are concerned about the impact raising the fee would have on businesses.

City Manager Myron Lee said he has completed an evaluation of the cost to administer the business license program.   

Councilman Jeremy Hoggard asked about the costs for renewal license versus new business licenses.  Employees report that renewing a business is quick to do, but it can take hours to check and verify the information for new businesses.  Hoggard said he wants the city to cover costs, but “it’s just one more thing, and unfortunately at this particular time, business owners don’t really want one more thing.”

Lee reports that a new business license requires verification of registration from the IRS, State Tax Commission, Department of Commerce, and licensing agencies.  They must also verify sales tax with the state tax commission.  Lee said that it takes approximately $50 in staff time and resources to prepare a business license. 

Lee agreed that these are tough economic times, and that the city needs to be sure there is a need for the additional fee before making any changes.  Sales or property taxes are currently subsidizing the shortfall in business licensing costs.   Lee said that $6.250 in new revenue from business licenses would free up money that can be used to make up some of $8,000 shortfall at the visitors center.  A public meeting is scheduled for November 12 to hear comments from the community.

Lee reported that Michael Martin and Dennis Hoggard, who both do contract work for the City, have found ways to save the money on the City telephone bill.  The city spends approximately $1,000 a month on phone charges, but it could be cut to $325 per month. 

It would require just under $20,000 in wiring to complete the project. Lee said it would take 28 months to recoup the initial investment, but after that time they would save a great deal of money. 

Martin said there are multiple phone and DSL lines at the city office, golf course, visitors center and water treatment plant which are all charged fees and taxes by Frontier.  The new proposal would link each site with a wireless system which would relay to the City Office. 

Martin said the new system would speed up internet service. Dennis Hoggard told the council that there would be six telephone lines in the building that could be wired so if the internet is down at Frontier, they would still receive phone service. 

Public Works Supervisor Nathan Langston is concerned about the reliability of service for the alarm system at the water treatment plant.  A separate line for that purpose would cost $25 a month.  Councilman Scott Shakespeare reported that a similar system at the school district works well and is reliable.  City Manager Lee said it has not been budgeted and would require a budget adjustment if done before July 1.  He asked the council to consider it for the 2009 budget and said he is looking for a grant to cover the cost.

Councilman Hoggard expressed concern over the customer service, or lack of, with the phone system.  He said many residents will no longer call the city office because the phone is not answered when they call.  He doesn’t think it is a staff problem, but limitations with the voice mail system.

Hoggard said people don’t want to leave voice mail, they want to talk to a person.  He suggested that they go back to allowing the phone to ring in every office, so if the receptionist is not in, the phone is answered by someone. 

Lee said that six months ago, all six phones would ring when a call came into the city office. He said it interrupted the work flow of everyone in the office and “that is just not acceptable.”  He said he does not have the staff or the time to interrupt everyone each time the phone rings. Lee said that the worst problem is that people refuse to leave a message and continue to call over and over and tie up phone lines. 

“I think all customers deserve the right to have their questions answered and some of them don’t want to leave a message,” said Hoggard. 

He said that the staff has to remember that they work for the citizens of Monticello, and if someone is the only person in the office, it is their job to answer the phone.

Councilman Scott Frost questioned why there can’t be a hierarchy, so if someone doesn’t pick up at station one, it would ring somewhere else. 

Lee said he wants to meet the needs of the public and wants to be open and available to the customers, but at the same time, they have a small staff that needs to be able to handle their workload. 

“There’s no reason that a ‘when is the landfill open’ question should interrupt a meeting between a developer and our zoning administrator, unless they are the only person here,” stated Lee.  He expressed frustration with getting anyone to come in and help with understanding the capabilities of the phone system.  Lee told the council that if the receptionist is not at her desk for some reason, she is transferring the calls to another person in the office.   Hoggard and Lee set a meeting to discuss the issue further and try to figure out the best way to make the current phone system work more efficiently. 

Lee also reported on the Welcome Center Landscaping bids.  He told the Council that the engineers reported that two of the bids were reasonable bids, and recommended that they find $36,000 in order to award the bid.  The other option is to re-advertise in the spring and repackage the bid, expending approximately $10,000 to do so.  Lee showed the council a breakdown of how to come up with the funds, including using money from the sewer escrow project that was done on Uranium Drive to pay for half of the paving that was done on Uranium.  Lee told the council they were originally planning to leave some money in that sewer escrow balance, but he has been informed by the EPA that if that fund is not at zero balance by the end of the calendar year, the money will be used toward an extra payment on the loan against the sewer escrow project.  Therefore, Lee recommended using the money for paying the paving bill, which would free up Transportation District grant money that could be used to cover three projects, including the visitors center overage of $36,000, and a portion of 100 West to 100 South project, with the rest of that project to be covered by Road C funds.   The council awarded the Welcome Center Landscaping bid to the lowest qualified bidder, which will likely be LeGrand Johnson if they are qualified by the engineers.  The council also approved adjusting the road construction budget as suggested by Lee.

In other business, Tammy Gallegos was appointed to the Victims of Mill Tailings Exposure Committee. 

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