September 17, 2014

Council, staff create unstable biz environment

Gardner isn’t open for business, and it has nothing to do with turning down massive abatements for the large project to our west.
It has much more to do with a chronic case of instability and incoherent city government. There is virtually no rhyme or logic to how the council votes. Some of that can’t be helped. The members of the governing body represent a diverse population.
However, the population seems to be in agreement that the city should be open for business, particularly small business.
A used car lot that received approval to operate is forced to leave town. Through no fault of the owners, city officials granted a permit they never should have granted. The small business owner spent his life saving building a small business, only to be told he had only a few short months to leave town – or at least his current location.
Meanwhile, a long-time small business fought for months to build a much needed parking lot and garage adjacent to the existent Bruce Funeral Home. The business owner appeared before the planning commission for approval to remove a piece of trim from the side of the garage. Planners and council approved the plans that included the trim piece, but once the project was completed, the business owner said the trim piece was not aesthetically pleasing. In order to remove one piece of trim along the newly-constructed garage, the business owner needed an OK from city hall.
Unfortunately it isn’t only businesses that require permits or those building additions that have to worry about being hassled by city hall. Now small businesses simply minding their own business have to worry that the bright minds at city hall may regulate them out of business.
Council members now have agreed to consider regulating local trash haulers. They made the decision as they discussed semi-truck traffic related to the intermodal. What do garbage trucks and the intermodal have in common? Very, very little, but bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat, and apparently, the public works director saw an opening to add to the city’s little empire. He suggested during a presentation about semi-truck routes that the city should consider regulating trash haulers.
Someday, the regulations might save the city money in road maintenance costs, he said.
Nevermind that the discussion was about truck routes specifically related to the intermodal. Now business owners must be on guard that city officials will find a reason to regulate their businesses from out of nowhere.
Stupidly, council members agreed to entertain the topic of trash hauler regulations at a future meeting, though most said they aren’t really in favor of the proposition.
But now, it’s on the table. The same staff that recommended that regulating trash haulers would be one way to deal with semi-truck traffic from the intermodal will make a recommendation about trash regulations to the council. We aren’t gamblers here at The Gardner News, but we will be flabbergasted if city staff doesn’t recommend some sort of new trash hauling rules. If staff expands the power of local bureaucrats, maybe they can find a way to make extra dollars. (Dollars, we note, that will likely not be used to maintain roads, but instead be used to fund more city employees to oversee new billing responsibilities and trash regulations.)
Even if the council eventually decides against new trash truck regulations, they are creating an unstable operating environment for the trash haulers who currently do business in town. If any of those business owners had plans to expand or add staff or purchase new equipment, logic suggests those plans are on hold as they await what may come from city hall.
Great job, council members. You want Gardner open for business? You can start by leaving existing businesses alone.

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