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City aims to revise business statutes

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In 1949, the Watertown City Council adopted a law that requires dance halls to obtain a license to operate in Watertown.

But city officials cannot remember the last time a dance hall operated in the city.

It’s just one in a series of obsolete and outdated sections that still exists in the City Code that pertain to business licenses and permits for such things as dance halls, auctions, pawnbrokers, billiard parlors, video arcades and when a business goes out of business.

And now council members will tackle the issue after getting a request from City Clerk Ann M. Saunders. She is bringing up the issue now after noticing that several provisions are no longer necessary because of the passage of time, community need or the fact that they now belong under state General Business Law. She received advice on how to handle possible changes from City Attorney James A. Burrows.

In a Sept. 26 memo, Mrs. Saunders wrote that “several items that require Council’s attention and decision. If changes are to be made, then a Local law would need to be prepared.”

For instance, some of the old laws still involve requiring permits for going out of business sales, liquidation sales, auctions and smoke or water damage sales and sets a $500 fee for the first month and $50 for a 30-day renewal. Such sales fall under state law, she said.

She also would like City Council to make changes for transient retail businesses, such as a furniture dealers temporarily setting up shop in the city. The purpose of the provision is to discourage retailers from competing with permanent businesses.

Currently, the transient retail business pays a $300 daily license for the first three days and $100 per additional day. They also are required to pay the city a tax on the gross sales by determining how much inventory is sold. But they pay on the honor system and it’s difficult for the clerk’s office to make sure the city is not getting cheated, she wrote.

So she suggested eliminating that from the City Code.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said last week he agreed with her assertion.

“I think we need to clean things up,” said Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns.

The work session will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall.

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