City council is considering repealing an ordinance passed last year that requires registration of contractors and tradesman doing work in the city.
The purpose of registration, which includes a fee, is to collect income taxes from contractors doing work in the city. Registration would also ensure that contractors are licensed, have insurance and are reliable. A registration list also becomes a standard by which homeowners can decide on who to hire.
The ordinance never received strong support from council, which voted 3-3 on the measure last May. It passed by a vote of 4-3 after Mayor Mark Stoner broke the tie.
At a meeting on Jan. 5, some on council reiterated their earlier opposition to the ordinance.
Councilmen Ed Schimmel and Mike Myers didn’t think the city had enough staff to enforce registration. Kimberly Grames, the city’s planning, zoning and economic development coordinator, they contended, would not be able to monitor the program on her own.
Schimmel also thought the ordinance might drive away business, and Myers was opposed to using police to monitor contractors doing work in the city.
Councilman Dave Gallaher thought the ordinance created more work for city staff. He also believes the ordinance punishes reputable contractors who pay their taxes but now have to incur a fee to register because of irresponsible contractors who do not pay their income taxes.
Grames was planning on mailing notices to contractors informing them of the need to register, but Councilman Randy Kozina asked that it be delayed until the matter is resolved.
Council agreed to have City Law Director Brian Ballenger draw up legislation repealing the ordinance.
After the meeting, Stoner said it would be a mistake if the city did not require contractors to register with the city.
“We have people who come in to the city and do work but they don’t pay any income tax. The ordinance was a way to make sure they registered, and then we could track them and get our share of the income tax,” he said.
The fee, he said, varies according to the type of work contractors perform, such as installing a roof, siding, or electrical. In some instances, it was $50.
“I was made aware that there was a lot of work like that being done in Northwood and they should be paying income taxes on it, but they’re not doing it,” he said.
“I know there are people who come in on a Friday afternoon, put on a roof Saturday and Sunday, then they’re gone. Chances are, some of these people are not pulling permits. In many instances, some contractors will set up a company and then just have a post office box address. There’s no way to get a hold of them. That’s just money that the city’s lost. The city is losing money that way year after year. The fees aren’t outrageous. Other communities do it. We’re cheaper than anyone else around. Northwood deserves its share of income taxes. It’s only fair.”
Stoner believes, contrary to some on council, that Grames could get help from police and streets workers in enforcing the ordinance.
“Kimberly would enforce it. But that doesn’t mean our officers couldn’t help out. If they notice someone putting a roof on, they could call the city or make a note, and Kimberly can then check it out. If our streets department is out there driving around and notice work being done by contractors, they could notify Kimberly, too. I don’t want the police and streets department going up and down the streets looking for them. But if the police, for example, are doing their jobs and patrolling, they’re supposed to be observing, too.”
Stoner said council may repeal the ordinance, but replace it with something similar with a few changes.
“I think they probably have enough votes to repeal it. If they pursue it and make some changes, or make compromises on it, then that’s a good thing. We have to have some way to get the money that we’re due. Let’s get our fair share from people who are making money in Northwood,” he said.