By Karen Cornelius
The Legislative Committee of Vermilion City Council met on Monday, September 18, to review the city’s chapter on peddlers, canvassers, and solicitors who go door-to-door in Vermilion. After discussion, it was determined there could be a few updates to the 1962 ordinance that is still used today.
Councilman Fred Ostrander asked for this review after complaints about people in his neighborhood canvassing homes. He asked about this door-to-door process and if they could be more specific about the wording indicating that a license can be procured from the mayor based on good moral character. He thought that was too broad, too subjective. Mayor Eileen Bulan said what they actually do is have the police department run a background check first which could take a week. She said each person has to have a permit, not just one for the whole company or group. Those solicitors can’t get by with saying they have a state permit, they must have a city one.
Police chief Chris Hartung explained that once the mayor sends a request, he has data bases to do background checks that go quite deep through any past complaints, criminal record, credit checks, and more. He said that should filter out any predators. He advised residents that the people have to show their permits. If they won’t, residents should call the police department if they think something is off. Recently, they had an incident when the solicitor wouldn’t get off the property, and the homeowner came out with a gun.
Mayor Bulan suggested they amend the ordinance and take out moral character and change it to a background check. “We’ve done it that way for years.” Councilwoman Barb Brady said the 1962 ordinance exempts religious and charitable groups and insurance agents who don’t need permits. She said they should eliminate insurance solicitors because that was a practice years ago when agents came to homes and that doesn’t happen today. The police chief said he believed that political and religious groups do not have to pay for permits.
Legislative chair Frank Loucka pointed out the 1962 charge for a permit was $10 and they should change the fee to something higher to cover the administrative work. He also asked clerk of council Gwen Fisher to check with other cities to see how they handle solicitors going door-to-door. Fisher said she would draft legislation to amend the current ordinance. Legislative passed a motion to prepare the draft.