One of the county’s contractors, Durden’s Lawn Maintenance, finally renewed its business license Monday after the issue came up at a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, but records show that the company has routinely failed to renew its business license on time over the years and appeared to even operate without a business license.
Owner William "Billy" Durden could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but records from the county’s Department of Development Services show that Durden may have operated without a business license for five years from 2002 to 2006 and that he had been frequently late renewing his license since 2007.
Business licenses expire at the end of the calendar year, but Durden has frequently renewed his licenses in February of the following year.
The company recently had a five-year contract renewal approved by the Board of Commissioners at its Feb. 5 meeting, when the board voted 3 to 2 to renew the $98,463 contract.
During that meeting, Durden said his business license was up to date. However, County Manager John Middleton said the business license office informed him that Durden’s license was expired.
Sirotkin, director of the Department of Development Services, said under state law businesses have until March 15 before a penalty can be assessed, but that all licenses should be renewed by Dec. 31. Sirotkin also said business license renewal reminders are mailed out to remind businesses that they need to renew their licenses.
Records from the Department of Development Services show that Durden operated his business without a business license for 11 months last year, with a renewal date of Nov. 7. In 2008, Durden operated his business without a business license for eight months, renewing on Aug. 22. In addition, the business had late renewals for several years, which were Feb. 9, 2011, Feb. 24, 2010, Feb. 9, 2009 and Feb. 28, 2007.
There were no business licenses available for the years 2002 to 2006 in the files. However, it was noted on a new business license for 2007 that $595 was owed for those years, which raised the question of whether Durden’s Lawn Maintenance operated without a business license from 2002 to 2006.
Durden’s Lawn Maintenance has been providing lawn care services to the county since 2006, which was the last time the contract was bid out.
The board also voted 3 to 2 in favor of renewing a five-year contract with Junior Hilliard General Services for recycling services on Feb. 5. Junior Hilliard General Services has held the contract with the county for the past 18 years. According to records, Hilliard’s has renewed its business licenses on time over the last several years, with the exception of 2007, in which a business licenses was renewed on Oct. 12.
Information regarding Durden’s late renewal of his business license has commissioners wanting to take a closer look at how the county handles renewing contracts with its contractors. District 1 County Commissioner John Douglas said Tuesday before the board meeting that the county’s policy on contractual services is not clear when it comes to bidding out projects.
"The part of the policy that requires the contracts over $20,000 to be formally bid out — the first sentence, the caption says that it is required. But the first sentence in the paragraph says that it may be required," Douglas said. "It’s not clear."
"I think what we may have to do now is back off of the grass cutting contract for a couple of weeks to see if we can get a clarification from the purchasing office on what’s going on here and why this policy is not clear and get it clear and rewritten and cleared up," Douglas said.
Douglas also commented on Durden’s Lawn Maintenance possibly operating without a license, which he said has caused the board to review its contractual policy.
"The problem that has caused the views with Durden’s contract is the fact that he apparently went five years without a business licenses and was slow to get a business licenses this year," Douglas said. "With those irregularities it has caused us to relook at the policy."
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz agreed in that the board really needed to take a closer look at its policies.
"It really underscores the need for us to scrutinize our policies and make sure that we have really clear policies not only for ourselves to hold the vendors accountable, but also in fairness of all the vendors so that they know what they have to do," Schulz said.
"We can’t say to one vendor do you have a business license and we don’t say it to everybody. We can’t say to one vendor you have to follow this set of rules, but you, because we like you, you don’t have to follow these rules," Schulz said.
"It has to be a consistent policy and I think that it has to be clear from politics and be a very clear policy that protects the resources of the county and the taxpayer’s money."