Jul 16, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Village Board of Trustees agreed last week to change the local law regarding peddling and soliciting from issuing permits for a fee to having peddlers and solicitors register at no charge with the police department.
The change, made at the urging of Police Chief Lloyd Perkins during the July 12 board meeting, is intended to better protect residents from unwanted solicitors and also to protect the village from certain liability issues that could arise under the current code.
“We don’t want to say someone can or cannot solicit, but we will know who they are [with registration] if problems arise,” Perkins told the board. “We need to get away from issuing a legal permit.”
The concern, Perkins said, is that issuing a “permit” implies that the village has thoroughly investigated potential solicitors and peddlers and therefore is assuring resident safety when a permit is issued.
This is not the case, Perkins said.
Currently, under chapter 149 of village code, any person wishing to solicit or peddle within the village applies at the village office, pays a small fee and gives copies of personal identification, typically a driver’s license and social security number. That information is then submitted to the police department for a background check.
The background check, however, is not as thorough as it sounds. The village police are limited to running names through the local sex offender registry and the regional Criminal History Arrest Incident Reporting System. Neither of these databases is always up-to-date, and neither reveals any person’s criminal history that outside the Central New York region, Perkins said. A criminal investigation must be underway before a thorough criminal history check can be initiated, he explained.
“If they have a criminal record out of state, we have no way of knowing it,” he told the board. “We don’t really get a good idea of who these people are.”
Village Attorney Michael J. Byrne said, to phrase it more simply, because of the “limited effectiveness of the background checks, in the mind of the public we’re doing more than we can.”
“It’s implying a level of confidence to residents that doesn’t really exist,” agreed Trustee Sue Jones.
Byrne said the current code also could open up the village to liability issues if solicitors harass, trespass or harm a village resident and the village, after doing a background check and issuing a permit, therefore allowed it to happen. There is also liability concerns in that the village collects social security numbers from applicants that it really does not need but then must insure the security and privacy of that personal information, he said.
“A driver’s license is all we need,” Perkins said. “If people give us false information that is a crime and they can be arrested.”
Byrne also suggested that the application fee for peddling and soliciting be removed, since it brings in only $150 per year to the village.
Although no vote was necessary or taken on the issue, the trustees unanimously agreed to task Byrne with writing up a proposed revision to the village code on soliciting and peddling, which the board would then address at a future meeting.
Educational groups, political nominees and candidates, non-for-profit organizations and religious groups would be exempted from a rewriting of the current code — as they are exempted in the current code — due to First Amendment issues, Byrne said.
Byrne said he hopes to have the proposed revision to the law ready by the next village board meeting on June 26, and the entire process to change the code, if that is what the trustees decide to approve, would take about two months. In the meantime, the current code remains in effect.
Also at the meeting:
—Director of Municipal Operations Bob Lotkowictz informed the board that the village’s engineering firm has offered to provide the village with new pump efficiency hardware and software for the village ultraviolet water treatment system if the village agrees to be a “test case” for the new software. After 12 weeks of monitoring, the village would get to keep all the equipment as well as get the results of the monitoring. “It’s really a win-win for us,” Byrne said. Lotkowictz agreed, and said this would “dovetail nicely with the energy grant too.”
—Village Historian Pat Blackler asked Lotkowictz if the DPW could “give some attention” to the five blue and yellow historical markers in village as well as the Thayer Park sign, all of which are getting a bit weathered. Lotkowictz said he would look into it.
— Lotkowictz said the application for the competitive state grant to make the new village hall building a net-zero energy usage facility would be ready by the July 16 submission deadline.
—The board agreed to make the new village hall antenna tower removal job part of total construction project rather than an individually contracted job. The board previously had decided to award the job to an independent contractor who specializes in such tower removals, but village attorney Byrne refused to authorize the contract due to liability issues.
—It was announced the asbestos abatement bid opening for the new village hall building was rescheduled from July 12 to July 17 because of a clarifying addendum to the proposal and the legal requirement to give at least three business days’ notice of change.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.