Fines of $130 a day could be issued

It’s saber-rattling time at Hannibal City Hall as the collector’s office has issued a final warning to business owners who have not yet acquired a current business license. The business license payment was due by June 30, 2017, for fiscal year 2017-18.

The window of opportunity to secure a license without penalty will officially close in less than a month, according to Phyllis Nelson, city collector, who was authorized by the city council on Feb. 6 to send out a final letter to each of the 17 businesses that as of that date had not taken action. That letter offers the opportunity to file an appeal.

What happens if the business owners continue to take no action?

“At the end of 30 days I’ll send the delinquent list down to (Police) Chief (Lyndell) Davis and he will instruct his officers to follow up and see if these businesses are actually in business,” she said. “If they (businesses) are, they (police) have the authority to padlock the doors.

“They can also be given citations which amount to about $130 a day.”

Concerning the padlocking of doors, Nelson said police have “not had to resort to that measure” because a business was lacking an up-to-date operating license.

“About the only time I have had to close any businesses down is when I have been instructed to by the state for not complying with state requirements - paying taxes and that type of thing,” she said.

As for not having a current business license at this point in the process, Nelson says there could be an assortment of reasons.

“Generally at this point the ones on the list have probably not been doing business in the city anyway. Some are contractors who have come in the city for one or two things and have not let us know they are no longer doing business within the city,” she said. “Some are the individual who is good at photography and says ‘I am going to try it (as a business),’ but then figures out it’s not something they can make a living at. It’s an owner working out of their house type thing.”

Nelson added that it is a business’ corporate headquarters that is tardy in renewing the license, rather than the local store.

A tax bill can hinder a business’ ability to secure an updated license.

“A few have to get a certificate of no tax due from the state to be issued a license. Sometimes they have a little trouble with that or are maybe a little behind with their city taxes which have to be paid to be issued a license,” said Nelson, adding, “I’m hopeful by the end of 30 days that the ones still actively doing business in the city have gotten in here and gotten it all taken care of.”

A good deal of time, effort and expense has already gone into trying to contact the business owners with expired licenses.

“Debbie White (business license manager) in the clerk’s office makes call after call and invests a lot of time and effort contacting these businesses when they are delinquent. We got it whittled down to 32 (on Jan. 12) when we really got serious about it. I had to send out certified letters to all these businesses, which gets to be a costly procedure before we’re all done.”

As of 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12, the number of delinquent businesses was down to 15.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com