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Happy hour gets final approval in Gainesville
Solid waste audits OKd
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The Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday to approve an audit of commercial solid waste companies that legally operate within the city.

The audit, which will be conducted by MuniServices, will review all solid waste companies that have a franchise within the city to make sure they are paying all franchise fees to the city.

The audit was proposed more than a month ago by Councilman Robert "Bob" Hamrick, who said the city should make more of an effort to know that solid waste companies are complying with city ordinances before raising residents’ trash collection fees.

When the council voted to raise solid waste fees by $2.20 in June, Hamrick dissented.

He said then that the city should audit all the commercial solid waste companies in the city to make sure they are paying franchise fees before raising residents’ trash collection fees.

Hamrick said the city’s income from solid waste franchise fees does not seem to have grown with Gainesville’s population, and perhaps there is more money the city should be collecting from commercial solid waste companies. Hamrick suggested at the time that some solid waste companies are not paying the franchise fee.

"Look at the ... commercial and industrial growth that we’ve had over the last, say, five, 10 years. It just seems to me ... that we should be receiving a goodly portion of that," Hamrick said.

However, City Manager Bryan Shuler has said that revenues from solid waste franchise fees have grown with the city.

In fiscal year 2003, the city received a little more than $100,000 in solid waste franchise fees, and four years later, the city received nearly $30,000 more from solid waste companies operating in the city, Shuler said in June.

Tuesday, the council approved the audit, which will cost $5,900, with a 4-1 vote after a brief discussion about the audit’s effectiveness.

Councilman George Wangemann cast the only dissenting vote, saying that he did not know whether the outcome of the audit would outweigh its cost.

"I have my doubts as to whether this is going to benefit us," Wangemann said.

In other business, the council gave its final approval of the happy hour ordinance, giving restaurant owners the opportunity to sell drinks at a lower price from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Two council members who previously voted against the ordinance, Wangemann and Hamrick, also dissented during Tuesday’s vote.

The ordinance came to the council already carrying restrictions on how and when restaurant owners could conduct their happy hours by prohibiting: sale of alcoholic beverages at cheaper than half-price; holding "all-you-can-drink" specials; offering free drinks; or selling beverages in pitchers or "jumbo" sizes for below normal price.

The ordinance also prohibits restaurants from using coupons or holding contests with a primary purpose of increasing the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

In addition, restaurants still must hold to the city’s 50-50 rule, which requires that food sales comprise at least 50 percent of revenue.

Along with the dubbed "Happy Hour Ordinance," council members also gave final approval to a slew of changes that made city ordinances consistent with new state laws, such as "Merlot-to-go," allowing restaurant patrons to take home partially consumed bottles of wine and other allowing provisions for wine tastings in the city.

Other administrative changes require alcoholic beverage licensees to apply and pay for the next year’s alcoholic beverage license by Nov. 15, and allow for new licensees to pay a prorated license fee if they apply for the current year’s license after July 1.