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City to stop inspecting pool tables

Nova Burbank plays a carnival game in the Millstone Pizza and Brewery arcade on Tuesday evening. Powell’s City Council plans to repeal an ordinance that has required businesses to pay an annual $3 fee on pool tables and other games. Nova Burbank plays a carnival game in the Millstone Pizza and Brewery arcade on Tuesday evening. Powell’s City Council plans to repeal an ordinance that has required businesses to pay an annual $3 fee on pool tables and other games. Tribune photo by Mark Davis

The Powell City Council plans to get out of the business of inspecting video games, pool tables and other activities in local businesses.

At a Dec. 18 meeting, the council voted to start the process of repealing an old game licensing ordinance that’s on the city’s books.

Code 5.36 states, “No person shall conduct, operate, or maintain, for hire or profit whether in his own place of business or not, and whether operated by coin or otherwise, any billiard or pool table, bowling lane, game vending machine or card table without having first secured a license therefor.”

The city’s license fee has been $3 a year for each billiard or pool table, bowling lane, video game machine or card table. However, the city recently received a request that the licensing fee be suspended until the ordinance could be taken off the books.

“It kind of goes hand in hand with some of [Councilman Scott Mangold’s] discussion on cleaning up our code book,” Mayor John Wetzel told the council. “As it sits, we are charged with charging a game license for pinball, Pac-Man — any type of games that sit in bars and establishments in town.”

Wetzel went on to say the code hasn’t been updated in years, and seems to be an “arcane and outdated thought.”

“There really is no reason for us to be charging somebody $3 annually and inspecting the machines,” Wetzel said. “We’re not quite sure why we’re inspecting pinball machines, and nobody has slot machines, so that’s the only thing we could think of why this [code] existed.”

Wetzel then opened the topic up to the council for discussion, offering a pair of options as to how to proceed. The first option was to suspend the licensing fee and not impose it in January; the second was to eliminate the ordinance altogether.

“Mr. Mayor, I would recommend just getting rid of it,” said councilman Jim Hillberry. “We can always bring it back if it becomes necessary.”

Wetzel said that, if the rest of the council agreed with Hillberry’s assessment, now would be the time to do away with what he referred to as an “exercise in futility.”

City Clerk Tiffany Brando indicated that the revenue generated was hardly worth the effort of going around and counting each machine while collecting $3 apiece.

“The revenue for last year was less than $300,” Brando explained, though this year’s total would be a little higher with the opening of Millstone Pizza.

“They have 34 games,” she said.

City Attorney Sandee Kitchen said that, if the council decided to repeal the code, they would have to come back with a new ordinance to repeal either the fee or the entire code. City Administrator Zane Logan said keeping the fee made no sense unless the city decided to substantially increase it — and “I don’t see why we would have any reason to do that.”

Wetzel said his recommendation would be to remove the entire ordinance, and the rest of the council agreed. Kitchen reminded the council that the repeal process had to be done by ordinance; council then instructed legal to prepare an ordinance to do just that. In the meantime, the council voted to suspend the licensing fee. Three readings will be scheduled for that process.

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