More ‘bite’ sought on collecting back taxes

The city may soon have some additional “bite” on the collection of delinquent hamburger tax revenue, Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Bob Purvis advised the civic auditorium complex and advertising and tourist promotion commissions Wednesday.

In a regular, joint monthly meeting, Purvis told the panels that commissioners Bill Brumett and Irene Holcomb, both members of the city council, are drafting new legislation to help with securing late payments.

Purvis said Brumett, who is chairman of the advertising and tourist promotion board, and Holcomb are drafting legislation that would make continued recognition of occupation licenses contingent on timely tax payments.

Purvis said any business that failed to pay for a span of time would be issued a citation, and those who did not respond to the citation could then face of a daily fine of $50 until the delinquent taxes are paid.

Purvis said the city attorney’s office is “working toward acting on existing liens” and “court orders for payments.”

Brumett said he and Holcomb are sensitive to a possible unfavorable image such an ordinance could spur with a possible notion of “shutting those poor people down” at a given restaurant, but owners of such firms have a responsibility to provide the city with the tax monies they collect from the public.

Brumett noted that Domino’s Pizza is currently operating despite being approximately $60,000 behind in tax payments from its two locations. Huddle House here hasn’t made any payments since August 2011, after reopening in January 2012. Arnold’s Catfish hasn’t paid since June, and Lil Steak House has never paid.

Brumett said it’s “wrong” for delinquent businesses to not render public tax dollars to the city.

“Those dollars are meant to serve all of the citizens and not just the restaurants that collect them,” he said.

It was also announced that delinquent accounts for hamburger and hotel taxes are now included on the convention center’s Web site. The facility is funded in part with revenues generated by the taxes.

In other business, Win Trafford was nominated to fill the unexpired four-year commissioner term of Steve Lux, who has moved from Pine Bluff. Trafford’s selection must now be ratified by the council.

Greg Gustek, director of the convention and visitors bureau and executive director of the festival association, reported on recent and upcoming activities.

Gustek said the annual Halloween Boo on the Bayou at the Delta Regional Nature Center was successful despite a small drop in attendance. He said the Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends holiday light show in Regional Park is now at its largest point ever with 220 displays over a 1.3-mile trail.

Now in its 16th year, the attraction is the largest of its type in the state and annually attracts more than 100,000 persons.

“And it started with just 40 displays,” Gustek said.

Gustek said on Dec. 8, the Christmas parade is planned for 2-3 p.m. and the Old Towne Christmas celebration is slated for 3-5 p.m.