By Butch Weir/Special to the Item
The Picayune Item
Aldermen continue to search for ways to regulate garage sales and flea markets in the city.
Mayor Billy Spiers and Alderwoman Shirley Wiltshire said they have received complaints about the flea market and fruit vendors that set up on the empty lot next to the Bill’s Fried Chicken building and the Pizza Hut.
Guy Ray Holston, city code enforcer, says he has received similar complaints. Some complaints regarding fruit sales are that they sell fruit from out of state. He asked if there isn’t a state law regulating that type of sales, especially regarding charging sales tax. Holston said he had checked and noted that there were no apples or peaches grown commercially in Mississippi.
He said regular businesses who pay taxes for the privilege of selling have complained.
Spiers passed out copies of Mississippi Code 75-85-1 concerning Transient Vendors, which defines them as sellers who operate at a given location for less than six months. The section stipulates that a transient vendor’s license from a municipality is required, unless the vendor or group falls under one of several excluded groups.
Holston favored rules along those lines with the stipulation that if a vendor didn’t have the proper documentation from the city, the vendor could be fined.
Alderman John Grant said he wanted the signs and vendors’ vehicles kept off of road rights of way, a violation of state highway regulations. Holston said he had removed the larger signs which had been set up on the roadside. Grant said there were still smaller signs on the right of way.
“That’s public property; that’s not theirs.”
Still, Grant said he was not as bothered by the matter if the law was followed and the vendors paid the proper taxes. He agreed that such vendors are competing with stores that do charge sales tax.
“If they’re supposed to be charging sales tax, and they’re not charging sales tax, then I’ve got a problem with that.”
“They’re not (charging sales tax),” Holston said.
Spiers wanted to know about specific vendors that set up and sell fish plates even though a portion of the sales are for a specific cause or event.
Also involved in the discussion was how the Miss. Code pertains to garage sales commonly seen at area residences. According to the copy of the statute handed out by Spiers, one of the excluded groups is “Garage sales held on the premises devoted to residential use.”
Wiltshire said she has researched how other cities have approached the issue. She possibly favors some limit the number of times someone could hold such sales, either garage sales or flea markets, in addition to establishing a fee-and-permit system. She said some of the garage sales appear to remain up all the time.
The city of Senatobia had local regulations along those lines, and the rule applied to any area within that city, Wiltshire said.
Holston said the owner of the empty lot has said if there was a problem with the flea market activity he would be all right with not renting the space. “He’s more than willing to tell everybody to get lost … pretty much.”
Spiers, who has expressed reservations about controls on these activities in previous discussions, still is unsure of how to approach the matter. “I don’t know what the answer is. They don’t bother me.”
He did support some type of fee for these vendors.
After the lengthy discussion, the board voted on motion by Bill Winborn to take the matter under advisement. Wiltshire seconded the motion.
Holston also said he has looked into a problem with trash and discarded household fixtures behind the apartments at Larkin Smith Drive and Dairy Street. Wiltshire said she has driven around the city and compiled a list of that and other sites that need to be cleaned up.