BY MELANIE WADE –
Two Mena City Council committees met on Tuesday, June 27, at City Hall to discuss the issue of mobile food services in the city, as well as business permits and licensing.
The Health and Sanitation Committee met to discuss proposing regulations on mobile food services in the city. One food truck owner, Jason Goodner of Chicollos, was in attendance at the meeting and stated that his food truck has all the state requirements necessary for operations and has been inspected twice since November by the state’s health inspector, meeting those regulations as well. One committee member, Terri Neugent, asked Goodner, “How do we know other food trucks are clean and safe?” To which Goodner replied, “How do we know other restaurants are clean and safe?” Goodner says that food trucks and mobile food services are held to the same standards that any other food service facility is held to.
Other than health and safety concerns of mobile food services, the Committee also discussed how to ensure that food and lodging businesses within the City are filing and paying the Mena Advertising & Promotion Commission’s tax, also known as the A&P tax, which is 3% on hotels and motels, and 1% on restaurants.
Committee members Andy Brown and James Earl Turner both expressed that sometimes a business can come into town, be open for a few days or weeks, and are gone before the city has time to reach out to them, and often times, no tax is collected. Or other times, the issue has been a business collected the tax, but never paid it and were closed down and gone with no further contact information available to collect what is owed.
To combat the issue, the Committee decided to research having new food service and lodging businesses within the city file a no-cost business permit. The Committee believes this practice would alert them when a new business comes into town and will give an opportunity to gain contact information for owners and give them information on what taxes are required to be remitted for that particular business, including the A&P tax, which supports Tapley Park, as well as marketing the city for tourism. Turner said the permits would “make it fair to those that are paying the tax.” Brown said that they “have always relied on the honor system,” but due to those who don’t willfully pay their tax, regulations must be put in place.
Citing regulations other cities have incorporated over similar issues in their own areas, City Attorney Patrick McDaniel will further research the topic and present a draft of a business permit application, as well as consequences for those who do not properly file their business.
Following the Health & Sanitation Committee meeting, the Finance Committee was set to discuss the requirement of business licenses in Mena. However, after the discussion of a no-cost permit in the previous meeting, the issue was tabled until the issue of business permits is finalized.
Another meeting will be held at a later date to discuss McDaniel’s draft before a recommendation is sent to the full City Council.