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Posted: July 16, 2013 10:12 p.m.

Councilman gets business license

Covington Councilman Keith Dalton received a valid home occupation license for his long-running janitorial business Monday, a day after The News ran a story showing he hadn’t had a valid local license for years.

Dalton paid $50 to the city for his license, which is the prorated share for a business that files after July 1, and will not be charged retroactive fees or late fines, according to city officials.

No past charges
“Late fees or payment of previous years were not charged as Mr. Dalton’s two businesses were not previously registered with us.
While he may have operated the businesses within the city limits for a number of years we can only charge for the year(s) he has registered with us and we have records for,” said Senior Planner Scott Gaither in an email.

Originally, when asked in theory, not about this particular case, Gaither said he thought it might be possible to charge fees for years a business did not have a license, but he said Monday that would only apply to a business that had at least registered with the city at some point.

“For example, should someone obtain and pay an occupation tax for 2010, however, fail to pay for 2011 or 2012 and come to pay for 2013, we can derive that they have been in business for 2011 and 2012 without paying.

Therefore we will require payment of 2011 and 2012, unless they provide documentation that they were in fact closed or ceased operations for 2011 and 2012,” Gaither said.

Similarly, Dalton was not charged any late fee for 2013.

“No late fee was assessed as he just now applied and paid his occupation tax. Late fees are assessed only on existing businesses. Mr. Dalton did not have an existing business; therefore no late fees were applied,” Gaither said.

Dalton also recently received a home occupation license for his property management business, Hat Creek Properties.

“As far as this office is concerned Mr. Dalton is in compliance with the regulations for a home occupation based upon the information obtained through the applications for the home occupations,” Gaither said.

Parking will have to change
Under the terms of the home occupation license, none of Dalton’s employees will be allowed to park at his house for work purposes, according to city ordinances.

“Only vehicles used primarily as passenger vehicles shall be permitted in connection with the conduct of the home occupation,” reads section “M” of the city’s home occupation code.

Neighbors’ complaints about the number of vehicles parked daily in Dalton’s driveway originally led to The News inquiring about Dalton’s business license, as such parking wouldn’t be allowed under a home occupation license.
In addition, no more than 25 percent of the home may be used for a home business, under the city’s code.

Clients won’t make change
Both Social Circle City Schools and the Newton County Library System will keep their existing contracts in place with Dalton’s business, Covington Window Cleaners.

The Newton County Health Department did not reply to questions about its purchasing policies.

“It is Social Circle City Schools’ expectation that each contracted business maintain required state and local licenses,” said Chief Financial Officer Allison Pittard in an email. “The school system will continue to obtain annual bids to ensure the most cost-effective contracts are in place.”

Social Circle City Schools have had a contract with Dalton since April 2009 and pay $27,758 monthly, while the Newton library system has had a contract since 2002.

The library pays $3,144 a month for cleaning at the Covington and Porter Memorial branches.

“Due to budget issues, all our contracted services are currently under review,” Director Lace Keaton said in an email. “The Board (of Trustees) will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

No comments from council
Dalton informed The News Monday he had all of his licenses in order, but said he didn’t have any comment.

Council members and the mayor were asked by email if they had any thoughts on the situation. Council members Janet Goodman and Chris Smith and Mayor Ronnie Johnston declined to comment, while council members Ocie Franklin, Hawnethia Williams and Mike Whatley did not respond.

Increase in applications
Gaither said the city’s planning and zoning department has seen an increased number of people inquiring about whether they need a home occupation or regular business – technically called occupational tax permits – license.

“I believe the article had an educational impact as to who may need an occupation tax,” Gaither said. “This Department’s standpoint is and will continue to be, to help people get into compliance with our codes and not to penalize them.”

If people believe there are businesses operating without valid local business licenses, Gaither encouraged them to “submit an inquiry or a complaint if they believe someone is in violation of this or any city ordinance.

“Should we determine a violation is present, we will do what is in our authority through the ordinances to gain compliance,” he said.

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