The Riverton City Council, minus Lars Baker, listened to a presentation Tuesday night. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Six months ago the Riverton City Council turned down a proposal to look into establishing temporary merchant licenses for individuals or firms doing door-to-door sales in the city. Then the weather warmed up and the complaints began began to pour into city hall and the police department. First it was a team of folks selling vacuum cleaners, and more recently, individuals going door-to-door with cleaning products. In both instances, the sales folks were quite aggressive and seemed not to take “no” for an answer. On Tuesday night, the city council reversed itself and instructed staff to begin looking at how these itinerant merchants can be identified and tracked.
Mary Ellen Christensen brought up the topic after she said she had received complaints voiced to her from constituents and from overhearing complaints from citizens who came to City Hall.
“I think there is an issue out there,” she said Tuesday night. “It’s a public safety issue on many different levels. I don’t want to stop free enterprise, but want to regulate it a bit. We should know who is out there. ”
The Ward 2 city council member said the city should have some basic information on who is in the city selling door-to-door at the minimum.
Fellow Ward 2 Councilor Todd Smith said when the issue was first brought up he opposed it, and although his stance on that has not changed, “I’m not opposed to discussing the issue. I’m opposed to the idea of regulation,” he said. “I’d be for a no fee approach if we proceed, but I’m not in support of more regulation of business.”
Councilor Jonathan Faubion thought a good approach might be to have residents post no soliciting signs on their homes. “There’s a fine that would go along with that if people ignore the signs. We need to put some teeth in there to recognize a sign rather than have someone come to city hall and sign up for a no knock list.
The city’s Community Development Director Sandy Luers said rules set down for contractors are also being applied to door-to-door sales people at the current time. “We have them pay a small fee ($50), we obtain their business or Federal ID number, we get a name of a contact person and the list of the people who will be out selling. We also get their liability insurance information and if they have workers comp, and we check to see if their business is in good standing, but that’s all.”
But that registration was developed for contractors, not itinerant merchants.
Ward 3 Councilor Richard Gard said he didn’t want to get the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or a civic organization to where they had to pay a fee. “I would have to agree on the far side of let the buyer beware is a far better process,” he said. “I will run with Jonathan (Faubion) and Todd (Smith) on this. If we exact a fee, we ought to perform a service, otherwise no fee.”
Mayor Ron Warpness said a $50 fee is not huge, “but if you are selling magazines or such that’s a lot.” Warpness also said , “it is appropriate to know who is in the community.”
Police Chief Mike Broadhead said his department does receive complaints, “but we don’t track those after your guidance earlier this year,” he said. “I’m concerned with older folks who don’t have the wherewithal to withstand a pressure approach.” Broadhead said that from a crime approach, “people who are from out of town are not accountable to anyone.” For example, he said if someone going door to door in a neighborhood finds multiple residences where no one is at home, “that can be an inviting target to take advantage of.” He said the RPD is not getting a rash of residential burglaries “but that threat is out there and we should do something reasonable to find out who these folks are.”
Ultimately, the council voted to direct the staff to investigate the issue further and report back with recommendations.