Proposed registry causes stir

Daily Reporter Correspondent

FORTVILLE — A town effort to establish a local business registry — which would be free for businesses that participate but might establish a penalty for those who don’t — has drawn mixed reactions from town officials and business owners alike.

Town manager Joe Renner, who first proposed the registry about a month ago, said the listing would include business names, addresses, phone numbers and information about what services the business provides and what it sells.

Some information would be for public access on the town website; other information would be kept private for town use, such as personal phone numbers of business owners to contact them in case of emergencies, such as water leaks or gas main problems. The registry also could be used to verify zoning on properties and provide information to those interested in locating a business in Fortville, officials said.

However, during the weeks since it was first discussed at the Fortville Town Council, several business owners have expressed reservations about the plan, some citing too much government interference into their private matters.

The council asked for input from the local business community, and feedback has been mixed.

And, according councilwoman Janet Manship, who was in favor of the ordinance, at least one business failed to respond at all.

Manship said she doesn’t understand concerns about privacy and said she considers a registry a win-win for business owners and people in the community looking to learn more.

“I don’t see where the infringement comes from,” she said. “This would benefit businesses with an extra way to promote them on the website.”

Her comments at a recent town council meeting triggered a response from local businessman Jason Ratliff, who told the council he was worried about another level of government oversight for business owners who already have to register with the county and the state.

“There is also potential for government abuse,” he said. “This is already covered at the county level.”

Five business owners addressed the council about the topic during a recent meeting, with three speaking in support of the registry, one voicing opposition and one seeking further information, including whether any fees might be assessed.

Manship and Renner both have said there would be no fee for registering businesses, though there could be one for non-compliance with the ordinance, which would require businesses to register with the town.

Councilman Robert Holland said he is encouraged by the variety of opinions expressed. He invites more business owners to give the council feedback.

“I’m in favor of gathering more input,” he said. “We’d like to hear from more at the next meeting. A lot of ideas we heard are fantastic; we just want to get it right.”

President Bill Hiday raised the possibility of an entirely voluntary registry.

The council will continue to gather information and opinions and will revisit the idea at its meeting set for 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at the municipal building, 714 E. Broadway St.

Have you say

The Fortville Town Council is weighing an ordinance that would require businesses to be listed in a town registry. Business owners are invited to speak on the topic at the council next meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 2. at the municipal building, 714 E. Broadway St.