09/05/12 — Commissioners approve new Internet cafe ordinance

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Commissioners approve new Internet cafe ordinance

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 5, 2012 1:46 PM

As of Tuesday morning Wayne County has a countywide ordinance regulating the location and operation of Internet or electronic gaming operations. All that is missing are the fees the county might charge.

Wayne County commissioners' unanimous approval Tuesday morning of the ordinance was a far cry from their first vote on the proposal Aug. 21.

At that meeting, board members appeared unsure of what they wanted to do with the ordinance. Following several minutes of silence and paper shuffling, it was approved 5-2, but only after two confusing shows of barely discernible hand votes.

Commissioner Steve Keen made the motion to adopt the ordinance at that meeting. Keen and Commissioners Bud Gray, J.D. Evans, and Ray Mayo voted for approval. Chairman John Bell and Commissioner Sandra McCullen voted no.

Commissioner Jack Best did not vote, and in accordance with county policy, he was counted as having voted for the motion.

The second "reading," or vote, was required since the first vote was not unanimous.

That hesitancy and confusion were missing Tuesday as Keen again made the motion to adopt the ordinance that requires that the cafes be at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, churches and other Internet cafes.

They have to close by 11 p.m.

The ordinance does not apply to any of the businesses located inside a municipality or to state-sponsored lotteries.

Alcohol sales or consumption is prohibited at the cafes, and the county fire marshal will be required to establish an occupancy limit prior to submission of the operation's permit application.

The ordinance sets a maximum daily cash payout of $600. Any amount above that would have to be paid by check or credit.

Existing operations will have 12 months to become compliant with the new rules.

As for fees, counties are statutorily different from municipalities in what they can charge, said County Manager Lee Smith.

"The county cannot charge, as the cities are doing, per machine, and for the establishment to have a privilege license," he said. "As a county we are unable to do that."

However, some counties do charge an inspection fee, he said. Smith said he has contacted some of those counties to ask that they provide information about the fees.

"But we don't have that at this time and will bring that back to you," Smith said. "We did get some calls from our local municipalities asking, 'Why aren't you charging like we are?'"

However, before the vote, Commissioner Sandra McCullen asked if approving the ordinance without the fees would make a difference.

Smith said that it would not.

"We would have to amend the (county budget) fee schedule to include something," Smith said. "That is why I was asking what other counties are doing and kind of see what is in line. It seems to be all over the place. We will have to propose something at a later date.

"I don't know what it is going to entail. We need to look at what our cost will be."

Keen offered to change his motion to omit the fee portion if it would make the issue easier to act on.

County Attorney Borden Parker said there would be no problem adopting the ordinance and approving the fees at a later time.

Parker said the motion did need to include when commissioners wanted the ordinance to become effective.

Keen said he would stick with his original motion to adopt the ordinance, adding that it become effective Tuesday.

"I think we need to make sure that everybody understands that this is not whether or not people can do this or not," said Bell said.

There are Internet cafes already operating in the county, Smith said.