Panel to study city fees

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, is scheduled to appoint a panel to review fees the city charges for various services, programs and facilities.
Earlier this year, council members said they wanted to review those fees, with an eye toward making it easier to do business in and with the city. The fees charged for business licenses are among those expected to be reviewed by the panel.
The council last formally discussed such fees in 2009, when it increased the maximum annual fee for service establishments (such as a restaurant) by 50 percent, from $500 to $750. In 2008, the city increased the maximum fee for a retailer, wholesaler and manufacturer — service establishments were left alone then — from $500 to $2,500. The increase resulted in an outcry from some businesses that saw their fees jump from $500 to $2,500 or somewhere between. After that outcry, the council set the maximum fee at $1,500.
The council, according to its tentative agenda, is slated to discuss the Internet café/sweepstakes issue.
In May 2010, the city imposed a 90-day moratorium on new sites for electronic gaming operations (Internet sweepstakes cafes) in the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction. Those operations also have been under scrutiny by the N.C. General Assembly and state courts.
In March, the N.C. Court of Appeals, in a split-decision, found that any state law that prohibits “the reveal of a prize” by way of an entertaining display “directly regulates protected speech under the First Amendment” and is unconstitutional. Attorneys with the state attorney general’s office are appealing that decision.
The council unanimously approved the moratorium after receiving a recommendation that it do so from the Planning Board. The board said the moratorium would allow it and the city’s planning staff an opportunity to review Internet sweepstakes operations and their compatibility with the city’s land-use plan and other land uses.
The council’s imposition of the moratorium, which took effect immediately upon council’s approval, came after a public hearing on the issue.
Internet sweepstakes cafes that have been properly permitted and licensed by the city may continue to operate.
The Washington City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St. To view the council’s agenda for a specific meeting, visit the city’s website at, click on the “Government” and “City Council” headings, then click on “Meeting Agendas” on the menu to the right, then click on the date for the appropriate agenda.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike