Reputable business owners know that among the basic costs of operation are the licenses and fees needed to set up shop in a particular community.
Those fees are fairest not just when they are set at a reasonable rate, but also when everyone in business pays them. Its hardly fair for one employer who plays by the rules to be forced to compete with a business that doesnt.
Until now, Columbia County didnt do enough to level that playing field. A new ordinance corrects that long-overdue lapse.
The new rule requires certain businesses - mostly, in the construction industry - to use county-issued decals on their vehicles. The stickers would identify the vehicle as being operated by a business that has purchased the appropriate licenses for operating in Columbia County.
Failure to pay the occupation fee - formerly know as the business license - has repeatedly been identified as a trouble spot for building subcontractors. Many of them are licensed in neighboring counties or in South Carolina, but never bother to purchase the required licenses or buy the proper insurance to operate here. Others simply ignore licenses altogether.
In any event, until now county inspectors have had little ability to check for occupation licenses at job sites. The license need only be posted at the businesses address, which may be miles away from a construction site.
The countys decals, though, would help identify vehicles as belonging to businesses that have obeyed the law and paid for the opportunity to ply their trade in Columbia County. The license fee itself pays for the inspectors, so its not an added taxpayer burden, either.
Mostly, its a matter of fairness; law-abiding businesses arent on the same footing as those who skip out on fees. All too often, the non-payers also skip out on paying for workers compensation insurance and other protections for their employees and for those who hire the unlicensed company.
Its important, too, to give credit where its due. Back during the 2000 campaign for District 5 county commissioner, Democratic candidate Jim Bartley - himself a builder - suggested the decals as a way to ferret out illegal contractors. It was a good idea then, and its a good one now.
The building industry is big business in Columbia County. Citizens must demand strict compliance with existing rules - and enactment of new rules when the old ones are proven inadequate.
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