Sales scam prompts changes in city law
BY KERRI TESTEMENT
AND KRISTI REED
A recent door-to-door sales scam has prompted the Hoschton City Council to rethink its position on solicitation.
Monday, the council approved new ordinances tied to door-to-door solicitation and solicitation by charitable organizations.
The changes come after several people recently went door-to-door in a Hoschton subdivision asking residents to buy books. Funds from the book sales would have funded the sellers’ culinary career, residents were told.
Police, however, contend that wasn’t the case. The suspects were arrested after convincing three residents to write checks ranging from $29 to $98 for the books.
Although the suspects were arrested on theft by deception charges, Hoschton police couldn’t charge them for other offenses related to solicitation because the city didn’t have such laws on the books. One of the suspects had warrants in Florida.
“We had no way to arrest him,” said council member Theresa Kenerly, who was approached by the suspect at her home. The suspect tried selling her items at her back door and garage, she added.
Council member John Schulte also said the suspects approached his residence.
Hoschton’s new door-to-door solicitation ordinance requires those who want to solicit in the city to complete an application at city hall. Criminal background checks will also be performed.
Licenses would be valid for three months. The city will charge $100 for each person for one to five people in a company and $10 for each additional person. Background checks will cost an additional $6.50.
Solicitation would be prohibited on Sundays, and from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., Mondays through Saturdays.
Solicitation would also be banned at places where a sign is posted at or near the main entrance or driveway prohibiting solicitation.
Charitable organizations soliciting in Hoschton would also require a permit, although some would be exempt under state law. There would be no charge for the permits.
The Hoschton City Council agreed to send a proposed loitering and panhandling ordinance to the public safety committee for review. The council held a first reading for the proposed ordinance.
In other business, the Hoschton City Council:
•held a closed-door meeting for 40 meetings to discuss personnel on Thursday. No action was taken when the meeting was opened to the public.
•learned that a public hearing on proposed budget amendments will be held on Wednesday, May 21, at 1 p.m. Some of the major changes include adding carryover and reserve funds to the budget, and re-assigning the court clerk from the police department to general government. The council is expected to vote on the changes in June.
•learned that the wastewater treatment plant project remains on schedule. A mid-June start-up using stream water is planed. The plant may start treating wastewater in mid July.
•learned that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has approved three sites for a possible new city well. A committee recommended using a site next to a ball field.
•approved a beer and wine license for Anthony’s New York Pizza and Italian Grill, located in the Hoschton Towne Center.
•approved a bid of $9,925 by Souder Asphalt Company, Pendergrass, to provide parking, curbs and sidewalks on White Street.
•approved a bid of $23,718 by Souder Asphalt Co., to pave Deer Creek Trail from Peachtree Road to about 448 Deer Creek Trail. The existing asphalt will be removed and replaced.
•agreed to limit use to Mill Street at the cemetery. A gate to the street would be closed, except during funerals.
•agreed to make Railroad Avenue a one-way street from Broad Street to Ga. Hwy. 53. The street was also added to the city’s official map, which makes it eligible to receive state transportation improvement funds.
•adopted an ordinance related to unfit structures.
•approved ordinance changes that would allow the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits in the C-3 and M-1 zoning districts. The city also allows those sales in the C-1 and C-2 zoning districts.
•revised the closing times of restaurants selling alcohol. The old ordinance stated that restaurants serving alcohol must close at 11 p.m.; the new ordinance extends the time to midnight. Local business owners have complained that the early closing times places them at a disadvantage when competing with restaurants in Braselton and Winder.
•approved an agreement to sell surplus items on govdeals.com.
•learned that the Georgia Department of Transportation is conducting a study to install a pedestrian walkway on Hwy. 53 at the depot.
•learned that the Art Trax festival featured 52 artists.
•learned that a group of gardeners will offer plants for sale on Saturday mornings, starting May 10, on Hwy. 53, across from city hall.