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SWEET HOME — The City Council agreed by consensus to discuss the possibility of creating a business license at Tuesday night’s meeting, but the process would have a low priority among other community needs, the councilors said.

The concept was brought up by Dewi and Dana Flores, representing the Chamber of Commerce.

Mrs. Flores said that as a Chamber Ambassador, she is active in welcoming new businesses to town, but sometimes those businesses don’t stay open long.

The chamber is looking at a business license as a way of tracking what businesses are already operating, how the chamber and other organizations could help them succeed, and as a way of letting potential businesses know what is already available in the community to help them determine whether to locate in Sweet Home.

“When I first learned about possible business licensing, I thought it would be just another financial burden on new businesses,” Flores said. “But, it would really help the community keep track of what is coming and going. We’ve lived here 11 years and some businesses close quickly. Businesses license information might help us determine why and figure out ways we might help them.”

City Manager Ray Towry said information from a business license program could be useful to help build partnerships with the Small Business Development Center based at Linn-Benton Community College or the RAIN (Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network) program.

“We learned in planning for the eclipse last summer that we really don’t know what services are available,” Towry said. “We also learned there are many home-based businesses in town.”

Councilman Bob Briana said he would support a business license and he also would like to see business owners clean up their buildings.

“I’d love to have a business license here,” Briana said.

But Councilor Lisa Gourley said requiring a business license could be akin to data mining and once the city has collected the data, who would be in charge of protecting private information in the long term. She also wondered if the city could require all businesses to get a license, or just new businesses. She saw a license as a way to add more regulations.

Councilor Diane Gerson said she favors the business license concept, adding that “the public is amazed that we don’t require a business license. It’s in our best interest to know what businesses we have in town.”

In other business, the council heard from representatives of city departments.

Police Department: Sgt. Ryan Cummings said the new sergeant positions have created more availability and accountability on all shifts. He said the department has a couple open officer positions and once those positions are filled, the department would like to add one more detective position. He said the canine program is nearly a year old and is doing well.

Streets: Public Works Director Greg Springman said the streets team has been busy with painting, picking up leaves and identifying potholes.

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Water Distribution: Wesley Glen said the crew has focused on identifying water leaks and recently capped a 20-gallon-per-minute leak. The crew plans to have a company sound all water lines to determine key potential leaks.

Fleet Maintenance: The summer was busy and productive. Tim Riley said a new line of communications among all departments has led to increased productivity and efficiency. He said the mechanical crew has successfully built or retrofitted equipment that has saved the city money and increased efficiency and decreased work for staff members. He said that efficiency has led to major improvements at city parks.

Parks: Kevin Makinson said the parks are looking good, thanks to new irrigation systems. Tree removal at Sankey Park has led to a greatly improved look and the public has been appreciative. He has also ordered some new picnic tables.

Library: Joy Kistner said the summer reading program was a big hit with 20 programs and some 332 children taking part in a reading challenge. Five little libraries have been placed around town and Library Director Rose Peda has secured almost $18,000 in grant funds.

Finance: Cindi Robeck said the new credit card system at City Hall is working well and a self-service time sheet program for employees is also being well-received and improving efficiency. She said having the Finance Department open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. has been welcomed by community members who work out of town.

Community and Economic Development: Jerry Sorte said staff associated with planning and building and economic development are now in the same area of City Hall, providing customers with a one-stop process. He said the Planning Commission will also meet twice a month if needed, to help speed up permitting for applicants.

Executive Department: Julie Fisher said the city has a new website that includes a Public Works portal. She said the city has 64 employees, one of whom has been with the city 40 years.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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