Collections on the square to be controlled more than now

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fund raising on Lewisburg's public square has attracted the City Council's attention as the practice is described as threatening retail businesses around Marshall County's Courthouse because motorists avoid the square when solicitors are at various corners.

From doughnut sales to buckets jangling with coins and folding money, the traffic islands and corners became a sanctioned location if organizations obtained permission from city police and followed regulations that require adults to take the lead when collecting donations through vehicle door windows, according to former Police Chief Wayne Coomes.

Road block fund raising activities were shifted to the square from Ellington Parkway several years ago after a teenage girl was hit in traffic, Coomes confirmed on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the regular monthly meeting of the City Council in City Hall. The girl wasn't killed, but her injuries were a wakeup call about such fund raising activities.

Now, Councilwoman Quinn Brandon told the Council on Tuesday night, "A lot of people are avoiding the square like the plague to avoid people who are soliciting collections."

Businesses on the square suffer when potential customers take side streets to avoid the solicitors, Brandon said.

"We need to do something about it," she said.

Merchants, their friends and relatives were represented at the meeting.

"I say we have a workshop on this next week," Councilman Robin Minor said. "There is a problem."

Brandon added that there's also a "danger," thereby making it a public safety issue.

Tuesday, June 23, at 4:30 p.m. in the Council's second floor meeting room at City Hall was set for the non-voting workshop for a full discussion, and Brandon called for a special-set voting session to follow the workshop "to vote on it immediately."

A consensus was reached on that plan and Councilman Ron McRady emphasized that both sessions are open to the public.

"There are a lot of people interested in it," McRady said.

"I want to hear from them," Brandon said.

In what appeared to be an acknowledgment that most, if not all, of the road block collections are conducted by students, members of the Council noted that a decision should be made before the end of summer vacation.

"I think three months is too long," Brandon said.

If the city's policy on charitable solicitation requires an ordinance, then it would require approval with three successful votes. Without special set meetings, that would take three months.