City cites resident for refusal to buy a business license

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Question for city: Business or hobby?

By Linda Ireland

About this time each year, the City of Hodgenville notifies business owners of licensing fees that are due.

Fees vary according to the type of business, according to City Clerk MaDonna Hornback. The general range is $25 to $500.

Enforcement duties fall to Hornback according to ordinance and usually, there is little dissension about the type of business and what must be paid. She mailed a survey to business owners requesting information about their businesses to make sure they were being billed correctly.

Occasionally, however, there are disagreements about what constitutes a business activity and what can be considered a hobby.

Hodgenville resident David Lee Graham said he was cited Thursday for violation of city ordinance for failure to pay for a business license. He will answer the charge July 28 in LaRue District Court.

Graham said he buys and sells vintage cars on the Internet as a hobby. He lists vehicles on websites such as RacingJunk.com and eBay. He doesn’t consider his trades to be a business so he shouldn’t have to purchase a license, he said.

Hornback said she checked records at the LaRue County Clerk’s office and discovered that Graham has transferred 24 vehicles since moving inside city limits a year ago.

She considers that to be business activity.

“If you sell one – no. But he’s sold 24,” she said.

The cost of a city business license for a car salesman is $175.

According to the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Commission Dealer Handbook (2007), a dealer license is “required of any person who is engaged in the business of selling, offering to sell, soliciting or advertising the same, of motor vehicles, or possessing motor vehicles for the purpose of resale, either on his own account, or on behalf of another.”

There is no minimum or maximum number of vehicle transfers which are allowed before a dealer license is needed.

Graham claims his problems with City Hall began weeks ago when he had a disagreement with Mayor Terry Cruse after the May primary. After that, his water meter was removed by city workers accompanied by a policeman; he was hit up for a business license; and has now been cited for failure to purchase a license. He said the City is prying into his personal business.

“I think it’s bull,” Graham said. “It’s personal vengeance.”

Hornback said the issue wasn’t personal and began when Graham asked for a reduction on his water bill. He was denied a reduction, then told he would have to pay $100 deposit because his home was not in his name.

On occasion, Hornback said, city residents will request a reduction on a water bill if they are filling a swimming pool. Since the water will “not be going into the sewer system,” she can adjust the sewer billing. The request for an adjustment must be made before the pool is filled so the meter can be read correctly.

Graham, she said, claimed to have watered his lawn and she was unable to verify his statement that the water wasn’t going into the sewer system.

On a visit to the courthouse, she checked PVA records and discovered Graham’s home on West Water Street was not “in his name.” Residents who rent or “don’t own their homes” are required to pay $100 deposit for water service.

She said Graham refused to pay the deposit and threatened to “cut the lock” on the water meter if it was shut off. So, she had workers pull the water meter.

Graham agreed there were problems with the water bill but he did his best to fix them.

Graham met with an attorney later that evening and had his deed revised to reflect himself, rather than his homebuilder, as owner of the property. He presented the new deed to City Hall the following morning but was told he would have to wait to have his water service restored.

Graham said a city worker was repairing a broken water line in a street beside his house that day yet it was several hours later before his water meter was returned.

Hornback said there were other scheduled water repairs that day and Graham’s meter was replaced in turn.

Graham said he has consulted a lawyer about his disagreement with the city but is not sure whether he will pursue the matter in court.