PORTAGE | Portage officials are continuing to look at how they license businesses throughout the city without causing hardships to either the businesses or city employees.
The idea is to create an up-to-date registry of businesses including information on owners, key holders, what services are offered, what is sold, if there are any hazardous materials on the property and other items of information that would be helpful to police and fire officials in case of an incident.
At a recent City Council Ways and Means Committee meeting, Councilman Mark Oprisko initiated the discussion.
"It is not really a revenue thing. It's more for safety," Oprisko said. He said he has licensed his bar in Munster and provided information he believes is important. The cost of the license there is $75 per year.
Councilman Ted Uzelac also suggested turning to the city's occupancy permit system to gather information necessary for the registry.
The problem with that, Fire Chief Tom Fieffer said, is that information isn't kept current.
Fieffer and Uzelac, a city police officer, said departments have had to forcibly enter businesses in emergencies when there is no record of a key holder to be contacted.
Officials said they also don't want the effort to be cumbersome for employees to gather and enter the information into the registry.
Councilman John Cannon, who chairs the committee, and Uzelac issued concerns about charging businesses additional fees and how that could affect attracting business to the city.
"We want to stay business friendly," Uzelac said.
"I don't think Munster is having problems attracting businesses," Mayor James Snyder said. "Businesses don't mind a fee if it adds value."
Snyder said his administration will work with the city's building department to figure out whether a business license practice would be necessary to gather and maintain the information.
"Public safety is paramount," said Snyder, adding he would report his findings back to the committee by June.