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The city is hoping hundreds of business owners will make it their New Year's resolution to finally purchase a city business license or at least find out if they need one.

More than 700 businesses here are believed to be breaking the law, many unknowingly, by not having a city business license, which can cost as little as $20 or as much as several hundred dollars each year.Even if they don't take such a vow, many businesses now in violation likely will be brought into the fold in 1995 as Sandy continues an aggressive campaign to seek out the unlawful and the uninformed.

Since late August, the city has located more than 175 unlicensed businesses and collected nearly $5,000 in back fees. No penalties or fines are being assessed, but larger businesses that haven't bought a license in years could find they owe quite a bit. In addition to license fees that range from $20 to $80, businesses must pay the city $5 a year for every person they employ.

The largest bill paid by a single business caught in the recent roundup has been $350, according to Lesley Casaril, the city's business license administrator.

"Many of them are stating that they're just not aware. A lot of them think that once they have a sales tax license, that's all they need to get," Casaril said. "We're finding about 95 percent of these people are very, very cooperative."

It's the other 5 percent Casaril worries about. Four years ago, when she was conducting a similar sweep, the owner of a temporary business pulled a gun on her. No one was hurt, but the business was shut down and the owner prosecuted.

"Some people get really nasty, but eventually it works itself out," Casaril said. "We have had some people that have been in business three and four years and their attitude is that we should have located them earlier, so they're kind of angry at us for back-charging them."

Fees paid by Sandy's 3,600 licensed businesses generate about $270,000 annually, but Casaril said making money for the city isn't the only, or most important, reason why businesses should pay the fee. Licensing creates an even playing field for the city's merchants and increases public safety by making sure building and fire codes are met, she said.

And just how are these naughty businesses caught? Part-time employee MelAnnie Vick spends much of her time going through the telephone book and property tax rolls looking for operators not listed with the city. And more than one business has been turned in by a whistle-blower.

Vick's position is considered seasonal, but Casaril hopes the city will make the position permanent beginning with the 1995-96 fiscal year.


Additional Information

Costs of operating in Sandy

Home business license

- Under $10,000 in sales: $20 per year.

- Between $10,000-$50,000 in sales: $35 per year.

- More than $50,000 in sales: $70 per year.

Commercial business license

- Under $50,000 in sales: $40 per year.

- More than $50,000 in sales: $80 per year.

Other charges

- $5 per year for each employee.

- Additional fees for businesses that serve alcohol or operate vending machines or video games. Taxicabs, fireworks stands and other specialized businesses pay additional fees.