Itinerant vendors and peddlers will now have to pay $200 before they sell their wares in Winnsboro, including the vendors and peddlers of the Franklin Parish Catfish Festival.
Town Council members agreed to keep the fee the same at their regular meeting, Oct. 20 on a 4-1 vote. Town Council member Jerry Johnson was the sole nay vote.
“I can’t see us jumping in the middle of the stream right now and trying to charge somebody $200 for a little booth when it has not been done for 34 years,” Johnson said.
Councilman Rex McCarthy made the motion with a Councilman Tyrone Coleman second.
“The city has fees such as late fees on water and connection fees that we have to collect to uphold the law,” McCarthy said. “When we took office, we took an oath to uphold those laws. If you come in here for one particular entity and change the law and do that for everybody, then where does that put the city? Our city is in a crunch right now.”
Catfish Festival Board Director Paul Price Jr. said the board and he had been in discussion with Winnsboro officials about the fees and was disappointed on the decision.
"We have been in discussions with the town for several weeks regarding this,” Price said. “After a rain impacted event in 2018 followed by back to back cancellations, the festival's position was the only way we could continue would be to leave things the way they were. With added expense from the town in regard to the festival paying for city police and city workers, and now with the vote for maximum vendor fees, we have to assume the town is no longer in support of having the Festival."
The ordinance originated from a 2011 Louisiana law stipulating all arts and craft shows acquire an annual operating license not exceeding $200. Under the law, all vendors / peddlers will have to exhibit their occupational licenses they receive from Winnsboro.
Those classified as a 501(c)3 and those living within the in Franklin Parish are exempt from fees and license.
“We want to make sure all activities are charged for,” said Mayor John Dumas. “We want to make sure we have good audit report and nobody slaps us on our hand or charges us with malfeasance in office.”
A discussion was had by Town Council members in their March meeting charging all “itinerant vendors/peddlers participating in the Franklin Parish Catfish Festival” pay a $1 fee for this year’s event and $75 fee next year’s event.
But, 2020’s Catfish Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Johnson made the same motion again in Monday’s meeting, but it died for a lack of a second.
After the motion died for a lack of a second, Dumas asked Town Council members if they had an alternative compromise. The Town Council was silent on the matter.
“This has been an ordinance for so many years, and it has been overlooked,” said Councilman Keith Berry. “I am in agreement to leave it where it is.”
Coleman seconded Berry’s response.
“Everybody knows the city needs some revenue,” Coleman said. “We need this.”
Johnson fired back at his fellow Town Council members.
“If the town can’t make it no other way, then they don’t need to make it off the Catfish Festival,” Johnson said. “If (the Catfish Festival) goes out of Winnsboro, it is going to one of the surrounding areas. Then what is Winnsboro going to do? We’ll miss that income the Catfish Festival brings in.”
In the last four festivals, $13,250 has been collected in sales taxes from inside festival gates, according to Joe Walters, Franklin Parish sales tax collector.
Of the $13,250, 4.45 percent goes to the State of Louisiana, 2 percent goes to Franklin Parish School Board, .5 percent goes to law enforcement and 2 percent goes to Winnsboro.
“Roughly, $4,000 to $5,000 a year is collected in sales taxes just within the (festival) gates,” Walters said in a March Sun interview.
Meanwhile, Winnsboro will apply for $750,000 of Capital Outlay money to “do away with” the Industrial Park waste water treatment plant and reroute the flow back to Winnsboro’s primary waste water treatment plant, said Heath McGuffee. McGuffee is an engineer at Meyer, Meyer, LaCroix and Hixson firm, of Alexandria.
The project was submitted for capital outlay funding last year but was turned down.
Capital outlay is money that is spent to maintain, upgrade, acquire or repair significant pieces of property.
Capital outlay projects are funded by the state Legislature. Local governments submit a request for their local projects to be included in the state’s Capital Outlay budget. The projects included in the Capital Outlay budget are funded when the state incurs bonded indebtedness to pay for them.
Capital Outlay projects are funded when the governor’s Commissioner of Administration include a Capital Outlay project in a bond sale, which is approved by the state Bond Commission.