Business registry concerns simmer on

FORTVILLE — It’s back to the drawing board for Fortville as the town continues its efforts to set up a business registry that has raised the ire of many local business owners who argue such a listing violates their privacy.

Fortville Town Council president Bill Hiday signaled as much during a contentious public hearing this week by tearing up his copy of the draft ordinance that created the registry, which would require businesses to release personal information to town officials.

The council held a public hearing to address questions and concerns regarding the registry, which has been up for debate for months. More than 30 people attended, the majority of whom are local business owners.

Hiday said talk around town gave rise to the need for the meeting as people were approaching him on the street with concerns.

“Through the grapevine, there has been a lot of information, misinformation and downright lies about the registry,” he said.

He also said there is no guarantee the registry will ever pass, as not all council members are in favor of it. He said that if one does pass, its details are far from completion.

Town manager Joe Renner said the initial draft came from the least-intrusive plans being used in other communities. He added the idea is for businesses to submit information, including after-hours contact phone numbers for local first responders to be used in case of emergency.

In exchange, businesses that participate would be promoted on the town’s website.

“This is meant to be a partnership,” Renner said.

But not all business owners feel there is a need for such a registry.

Linda Hanson, who operates a business out of her home, said business owners can leave their personal information directly with police, and the promotion aspect of the proposal duplicates services already being offered by the local chamber of commerce.

“The needs have already been met,” she said.

Fortville Police Department Chief Bill Knauer said there is an impending concern for public safety officials because, as of Jan. 26, the departments will have a new dispatch system; having updated after-hours contact information in that system will be essential, he said.

“If we don’t have the info, we’re somewhat limited in what we can do,” he said.

Several in attendance pointed to fears of further government regulation as a result of such a registry.

There were also worries that, despite the fact there is no cost to participants in the draft proposal, future councils would change the policy and charge businesses.

After tearing up his copy of the draft ordinance, Hiday said the current version obviously will not work for the town, and more research is needed before anything can be done.

“If Greenfield or New Palestine don’t need this, why do we need it?” town councilman Ron Stafford asked.

“I think we’re better than Greenfield or New Pal,” Hiday responded, saying he would rather Fortville be a leader than a follower.

Although no further meetings on the topic were scheduled, Hiday reiterated the council will discuss the matter again.