The City of Smithville has an ordinance regulating charitable roadblocks which are often conducted at major intersections to raise money for various causes or needs.
However, Alderman Shawn Jacobs says he is concerned that the practice is being abused and wants the city to have stricter enforcement.
During Monday night's city council meeting, Jacobs cited a passage of the ordinance, which requires groups wanting to conduct a fund raising roadblock to show proof in writing to the Chief of Police that their organization meets non-profit, tax exempt status. "I'd like to call the board's attention to ordinance #329, it was passed on November 4th, 2002. It's an ordinance regulating the obstruction of highways and other passages where charitable organizations and others must provide proof of exemption from the IRS under 26 US Code 501-C3 or 4 in writing to the Chief of Police, it's proposed specific time and place of obstruction ,and the precautions to be implemented by the organization. This is in regard to setting up charitable roadblocks, such as at Highways 70 & 56. The reason I bring this up is I have had a number of citizens bring this to my attention that for a while it seemed like every Saturday there was somebody at that intersection collecting contributions. Sometimes it's people we know. Sometimes we have no idea who they are and I just wondered, is this ordinance being enforced and if not can we start getting it enforced because this is truly a hazard. I know a young person was actually struck by a car several months ago."
One of the concerns is that some groups may be setting up road blocks without contacting the city.
Police Chief Richard Jennings explained how his department handles charitable roadblocks. "If somebody is going to do a road block down there, they have to send me proof that they are a tax exempt organization. It has to be in writing and they have to schedule a day with my secretary and we keep a schedule of that and we keep those on file. My secretary posts it on the board that on this date, this group will be down there collecting money and if they (police) see somebody down there, they're supposed to come in and make sure their name is on the list. If not, they go down there and ask them to leave, and we have done that."
"They (groups collecting money) are required to wear the orange vests but sometimes they don't always do that and they are not supposed to stand out in the roadway. They are to stand over on the sidewalk. I have my officers check on it and if they're standing out there (in the road) they (officers) are to come down there and tell them to step over to the side of the road."
"I would like for the people who actually collect the money to be at least eighteen years old . I don't have a rule like that but that would be nice because there are children out there sometimes. It's very dangerous and if the board wants to address the problem, we could have more strict guidelines. I think we do need that but it's not in the ordinance. It doesn't address where they can stand, the age, or a time limit if we want to set one. It might be something the board would want to take a look at and tighten it up a little."
The aldermen seemed to agree that written permits should be issued to eligible groups seeking permission to conduct charitable roadblocks, a practice which is currently not being followed. Chief Jennings said he was unaware that written permits were required but that he would comply and begin issuing them.