RUMFORD — Hawkers and peddlers who set up shop at prime, high-traffic locations such as the Information Booth or Hosmer Field could be in for a shock next summer.
Selectmen on Thursday night began looking at amending the current Hawker's and Peddler's Ordinance. Suggestions and concerns ranged from requiring liability insurance to increasing fees while reducing on-site days.
Currently, Rumford's ordinance requires vendors to pay a $150 fee and to place two advertisements in local newspapers to set up shop on town land.
There is no limit on how long they can vend. Additionally, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the ordinance affected the local Farmer's Market this year by inadvertently restricting the number of vendors who could participate because they couldn't afford the fee.
Although the Farmer's Market is an association, the ordinance doesn't view it as such and requires each vendor to get a license.
"They feel it's too oppressive," he said. "A lot of towns don't require them to get individual licenses."
However, Puiia said the Farmer's Market, which is considered an association, skirted the ordinance by operating on private property in a parking area beside the Sun Journal/Rumford Falls Times office building instead of on Exchange Street.
The town increased the fee in the past out of concern for taxpaying businesses that must compete with hawkers and peddlers. However, it's not high enough, selectmen said.
"When a vending concession stand comes in and sets up, they don't pay taxes," Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said. "A few business owners feel it's not fair. I think it's also time to look at requiring liability insurance."
Resident and municipal committee member Kevin Saisi urged the board to "consider equality and balance that you're not damaging local businesses by helping out a business that's from out of town."
Several vendors set up stands in the Information Booth parking lot at the bottom of Falls Hill on Route 2, restricting available parking in what's considered a town park. They compete directly with the Circle K across the street, which also sells food and beverages.
"Crossing that street to get something to eat is hazardous," Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said.
Rumford firefighter and local businessman Eric Giroux said he likes Volkernick's idea to require liability insurance, but doesn't think the current ordinance fee is fair for vendors that only set up shop for a few hours at one town-sanctioned event.
"If they come to one event per year, is it really worth paying $150?" he asked. "I don't think so. I can't see paying $150 for four hours."
When Selectman Jeff Sterling asked if the ordinance wouldn't exempt the Farmer's Market association from its requirements because it exempts vendors who grow their own crops to sell, Puiia said many of the association's vendors buy the crops and food from others to sell.
Selectman Brad Adley, a local businessman, agreed with Volkernick and Saisi regarding vendors at the Information Booth paying the $150 fee, setting up shop and staying all summer.
"They pay $150 and compete with businesses here that pay taxes," Adley said. "I can't support a blanket permit."
He said he wants either additional fees added to the ordinance or time limits for hawkers and peddlers to sell their wares.
Board Chairman Greg Buccina, who is on the town's Fourth of July Committee, said several vendors wanted to come for the day, but either couldn't afford the $150 fee or didn't have enough time to go through the permit process.
He wants the ordiance amended to include time limits or higher fees.
Selectman Lovejoy also wanted vendors who use town electricity to pay for that.
Puiia thanked the board for their suggestions and said he has been reviewing ordinances from other towns and would create a draft amendment for the board to review at a future meeting.
In other business, Puiia plugged recycling as a way to help the town save money and placed several blue recycling bins on stage behind the board, telling residents they can pick them up at the town office.