Batesville proposing limits on door-to-door solicitors - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Batesville proposing limits on door-to-door solicitors

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BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The City of Batesville is trying to better monitor door-to-door solicitors that come into town.

 The Batesville City Council is currently considering approving an ordinance that would place restrictions on solicitors. Council members read the ordinance for the first time Tuesday evening and approved it. It must be read and approved two more times to take effect.

Officials began drafting this ordinance a few months ago after getting an increasing number of complaints. At the time, they learned the city had no policies to address this growing problem.

The Independence County Sheriff's Department told the council that it gets complaints from time to time about solicitors going door to door, but a recent incident revealed an issue.

"We had a college group – they represented themselves to be a college group from the other side of Oklahoma," Chief Deputy Alan Cockrill said, "and we got four calls within an hour on them."

Cockrill says the group was trying to sell magazine subscriptions, but none of the alleged students carried any identification tying them to the college.

"We had neighbors that were saying, ‘Look, we don't want solicitors coming through this neighborhood,'" he said, "but there was nothing legally binding for us to do with it."

That, however, is all about to change.

An ordinance regulating out-of-town solicitors has been crafted by Cockrill and Chad McClure, a Batesville code enforcement officer.

"Hopefully, [the ordinance] will be a layer of protection for the citizens if someone does solicit, knock on your door," McClure said.

McClure says the proposal would make any would-be solicitors apply for and then carry a permit at all times. They would also have to undergo and pass a background check.

"They would [also] be required to pay the permit fee," McClure said, "and they would be required to put up a $1,000 surety bond to cover goods and services in the event that they were not delivered properly."

The proposed permit fee is $50 for an individual solicitor or $500 for a company or organization employing different people to solicit.

The ordinance would also require solicitors to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

If the proposal is approved, anyone that violates these regulations could face penalties, including jail time or a hefty fine.

Cockrill says local civic groups, non-profits and schools are exempt from these rules.

"This will not affect deliveries, UPS, the Schwan's man – people you'd normally have in a neighborhood," he said. "This is solely for outside organizations who want to come in, which we don't mind coming in. We just want to know who they are, where they're from and what they're here for."

The Batesville City Council is expected to take up this ordinance again at its next meeting on May 14.

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