Council passes new business licensing bylaw

e Businesses—local and otherwise—all will be required to get licences after town council Monday night passed a revised bylaw to licence and regulate businesses, taxis, and trades carried on within Fort Frances.
A public meeting was held prior to council’s vote, at which time Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce president Gary Rogozinski voiced two concerns about the bylaw.
“How will this bylaw be enforced to ensure an equal playing field?” he asked. “Town officials need to ensure that businesses from outside the area pay their licence fee.
“Either all businesses pay or no businesses pay,” he stressed.
“It is unfair not to have contractors, taxis, or tow trucks from Thunder Bay pay an annual fee if they are doing business in the Town of Fort Frances,” Rogozinski added.
“If they are unwilling to pay an annual licensing fee, then they should not be allowed to conduct business within town limits.”
He also noted any additional fees to the business sector always add to the burden of excessive overhead.
“Is there no other way other than to have a fee?” he asked council. “Increases to business overhead are usually passed on to the consumer, which is all of us.
“If a fee is felt absolutely necessary, then we look forward to reviewing the licence fee schedule when it is revised and available.”
That said, Rogozinski also noted “the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this process and to have the time to get comments from area businesses that will be directly impacted by the bylaw.”
“There have been significant changes to this version of the bylaw, all of which have been positive in streamlining the document and making it more workable,” he added.
Mayor Dan Onichuk noted Monday night that the purpose of the bylaw is to revise the way the town regulates businesses—and give the town a means of providing some sort of protection to the consumer.
“It’s been a long time coming, cleaning it up,” he said. “When this council first came together and we started taking a look at [the business licensing bylaw], we soon discovered there were a lot of businesses in town that administration wasn’t even following up on to make sure their licences were paid for.
“After that, we also realized there was a lot of businesses that were allowed to operate here and weren’t required to have a licence,” the mayor added.
This led, he noted, to residents complaining to the town about shoddy work done by unlicensed contractors, as just one example, and the town having no record of the businessperson being complained about because they were operating without a licence.
The bylaw was passed by a 5-1 vote, with Coun. Tannis Drysdale being the lone dissenter (Coun. Roy Avis was not present at Monday night’s meeting).
“I felt it still needed to be revisited,” Coun. Drysdale said. “I personally believe we have to become better at universally enforcing the bylaws we have before we expand out and take on more responsibilities, licensing more things.
“But it’s really important that now council decided they want to do this. Now we’ve made a decision, and as a team we’ll go forward,” she added. “It’s over.”
As previously reported, some highlights of the bylaw include:
•All businesses will require a licence.
The fees for these are under review, but may be in the $35-40 range. Businesses that have their office outside of Fort Frances but do business here will require a business licence that will be $350 in most cases.
This annual non-resident business licence replaces the recent fee per job requirement.
•Most wording on tradespeople has been removed.
Electricians have requirements under the ESA to obtain master certification by early 2007. The bylaw will state that electricians have to meet the requirements of the ESA in order to work in Fort Frances.
•A contractor will have to pay for one business licence only.
All trades employees will not need their own business licence as long as they are on the payroll of the contractor.
•If a tradesperson is self-employed, they will need a business licence.
•The section on drainage contractors has been removed, and folded into in a “catchall” trades category.
•Buses owned by a small one-bus business will need a business licence (they will not be covered by their respective school boards). If a business has several buses, they only will need one business licence.
•Some businesses that come from out of town on an intermittent basis will not need a business licence (for example, if a tow truck comes into town from Thunder Bay to get a vehicle and take it back there).
Clerk Glenn Treftlin said Monday if there’s any aspect of the bylaw that doesn’t end up working as well in practice as in theory, or any fees need to changed, council always can make future revisions to the bylaw at any time.
The new bylaw won’t come into effect until May 1 in order to give council time to amend its current fee schedule to correspond with any fee revisions in the business licence bylaw.
These fee schedule amendments will be the subject of a public meeting prior to May 1.