BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The City of Batesville is trying tobetter monitor door-to-door solicitors that come into town.
The Batesville CityCouncil is currently considering approving an ordinance that would placerestrictions on solicitors. Council members read the ordinance for the firsttime Tuesday evening and approved it. It must be read and approved two moretimes to take effect.
Officials began drafting this ordinance a few months agoafter getting an increasing number of complaints. At the time, they learned thecity had no policies to address this growing problem.
The Independence County Sheriff's Department told thecouncil that it gets complaints from time to time about solicitors going doorto door, but a recent incident revealed an issue.
"We had a college group – they represented themselves to bea college group from the other side of Oklahoma," Chief Deputy Alan Cockrillsaid, "and we got four calls within an hour on them."
Cockrill says the group was trying to sell magazinesubscriptions, but none of the alleged students carried any identificationtying them to the college.
"We had neighbors that were saying, 'Look, we don't wantsolicitors coming through this neighborhood,'" he said, "but there was nothinglegally binding for us to do with it."
That, however, is all about to change.
An ordinance regulating out-of-town solicitors has beencrafted by Cockrill and Chad McClure, a Batesville code enforcement officer.
"Hopefully, [the ordinance] will be a layer of protectionfor the citizens if someone does solicit, knock on your door," McClure said.
McClure says the proposal would make any would-be solicitorsapply for and then carry a permit at all times. They would also have to undergoand 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 tocover goods and services in the event that they were not delivered properly."
The proposed permit fee is $50 for an individual solicitoror $500 for a company or organization employing different people to solicit.
The ordinance would also require solicitors to operatebetween the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
If the proposal is approved, anyone that violates theseregulations could face penalties, including jail time or a hefty fine.
Cockrill says local civic groups, non-profits and schools areexempt 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 foroutside organizations who want to come in, which we don't mind coming in. Wejust 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 thisordinance again at its next meeting on May 14.