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Smiling sales representative shows her id card to a senior woman at the door

4.15.22 – Arkansas Online – Springdale

The Springdale City Council knows a stranger knock-knocking on a front door of a city resident is no joke.

The council on Monday will consider upgrading the city’s door-to-door solicitation policy for residences.

The ordinance will remain much the same, but the council wants the policy for residential solicitation to include the amount of fines that could be required if the policy is not followed, explained City Attorney Ernest Cate.

The fine could reach up to $1,000 — the possible fine for not following any city ordinance, he said.

“But we don’t want to fine them,” Cate said. “We want compliance.”

The city also has a similar set of rules for soliciting to commercial and industrial properties.

Owners of food trucks and ice cream trucks follow a more specific set of rules, he said.

Exemptions to the city policy include representatives of religious groups, supporters speaking on behalf of politicians up for election to an office or supporters looking for signatures on petitions.

Cate said these all must be allowed by the city under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech guarantee.

Nonprofit groups may solicit their wares. This includes Girl Scout cookies and church and school fundraisers.

The city requires permits for businesses seeking to profit from private residents, Cate said. He noted common themes of door-to-door sales include home security systems, pest control, cleaning products and educational products or books. Recent storms have no doubt led to increases in pitches for roof repair and tree and limb removal, he said.

A business must obtain a $40 permit for solicitation from the City Clerk’s Office, Cate noted. The business will need to pay $5 more for each salesman on the street, he added.

And all individual vendors representing a business must complete a background check through the Arkansas State Police and have no criminal record of drug, theft or violence felonies, he continued.

When out selling, the salesman must display a visible photo identification, carry a copy of the city ordinance and a copy of his permit, Cate said.

Solicitations are not allowed between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Denise Pearce, city clerk, said her office issued just one permit in 2021 and one this year. Both were to construction and roofing firms.

The office typically issued four to six permits a year before the covid-19 pandemic, she said.

City code and the Police Department’s unwritten procedures treat violations of the solicitation ordinance as they would a noise ordinance violation, Cate said. A resident would call the police, and the police would investigate. The police could issue a ticket, but probably wouldn’t, he said.

An officer simply would ask a vendor to stop soliciting if he didn’t have the proper permitting.

“A lot of times, if they’re from out of town, they don’t even know we have an ordinance. We want to educate them before we write them a ticket,” said Capt. Jeff Taylor, a spokesman for the Springdale Police Department. “It’s totally up to the discretion of the officer if he writes a ticket.”

If the solicitor is found again without a permit, the police officer might write a ticket.

If the solicitor appears in Springdale District Court, state law would require him to pay $65 on any city ordinance violation, even if the fine is suspended, Cate said.

Springdale police issue about two tickets a year for solicitation, Cate said Monday while looking at police reports.

The City Clerk’s Office provides for free stickers reading “No soliciting” and “No peddling” for residents. Yard signs with the same message are available from the clerk’s office for $5.

Pearce said the clerk’s office doesn’t get many requests for yard signs or stickers. The staff will mail the stickers, if requested.

Brandie Wooten has one of those stickers on her front door in a neighborhood near J.B. Hunt Park. She said she got one when the city first started the program. Her family lived off of Chapman Avenue at the time.

Wooten said she got a lot of kids selling magazines for a boys home in Oklahoma to pay for college.

“I don’t mind helping out, but the interruptions were constant,” she said.

And even with the sticker, she still gets solicitors — knocks which she answers only with her video doorbell.