SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - Vendors looking to sell their merchandise inside the city limits soon could begin paying more for a permit.
City Administrator Sammy Burrows said he met with South Pittsburg police officers last week and instructed them that if they see peddlers "start pulling their junk out to sell, tell them to hit the road."
"Basically, what happens is every year when it starts getting warm, we have people slide into town, and they want to throw their stuff out on the front street," he said. "It junks up downtown. It's not fair for our local businesses that pay taxes."
South Pittsburg's current ordinance requires a $20 fee for a peddler's permit.
Burrows said city commissioners need to examine raising that fee because a peddler who wants to sell goods in the downtown area "needs to pay for it."
Mayor Jane Dawkins said the town is obligated to "accommodate" vendors who get a legal permit at City Hall.
There are some "loopholes" in the permitting process, Burrows said.
"Most of these people we're running off are not coming in here and getting a permit," he said. "We have the right to do that. If they're legitimate, they need to pay a stiffer fee than 20 bucks. I'd like to look at us doing that."
Beth Duggar, president of the National Cornbread Festival Committee, said the peddler's permit fee is "a city decision" and won't affect that event on April 26-27.
Cornbread Festival vendors will still go through a completely different vetting process with "pretty stringent rules," she said.
"Really, [peddlers outside the festival gates] are prohibited around the festival weekend," Duggar said. "It's really not fair for somebody to come and pay the [city's] fee and take advantage of the festival 10 feet outside of the gate."
Last year, one such peddler was selling candy just outside a festival gate and also asked patrons for donations to her child's college fund, she said.
Vendors such as that one and those who sell merchandise on the city's front street during the rest of the year "take away from local businesses," Duggar said.
City leaders plan to discuss the peddler's permit fee issue at a workshop in the coming weeks.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.