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WATER VALLEY – City officials briefly discussed the fee charged for a transient vendor permit in Water Valley during the monthly meeting on Dec. 7. The topic surfaced after Mayor Donald Gray cited chatter on social media about a food truck operated by Chick-fil-A that set up in Water Valley on Nov. 9.
“Water Valley, thanks for coming out. We want to come back but if we don’t, it won’t be our choice. The city is asking us to do things that no other city we have been to is asking. Us coming back will be contingent on that,” the Chick-fil-A Jackson Avenue location in Oxford posted on Facebook.
Gray told aldermen that the transient vendor license is required, both by state statute and city ordinance.
“If you are a vendor you have to have a permit,” Gray explained. “The state says you can set a fee up to that amount ($250), but not more.”
The mayor also explained that any vendor that sets up in the city is required to purchase the license.
“I wanted y’all to be aware. We are not trying to be a bad guys, a rule is a rule,” Gray said.
City officials gathered around the table shared Gray’s sentiment that the $250 was fair.
“It is just a disservice to the people who want to invest in brick and mortar buildings here, for someone to come in with a food truck, with a good name on the side of that food truck, to come in and just wipe out their lunch business,” City Attorney Daniel Martin noted.
“And they flat out said they were not going to pay me a dime,” City Clerk Vivian Snider explained about correspondence with the franchise owners.
“I want y’all to be aware, we charge our people who set up and sell watermelons in the summer for a vendor’s license,” Gray added. “We do have to protect our brick and mortar people. When somebody comes in and invests a million dollars in building a building.”
“From what I hear, they sold out. You are only talking about $250 for the year,” Ward One Alderman Ron Hart noted.
Hart also questioned if the city collected sales tax from sales from the food truck, prompting speculation if the sales tax was recorded at the store location in Oxford or in Water Valley. The city receives a portion of sales tax collected within the municipal limits, one cent from each seven cents collected per dollar of sales. During the current fiscal year almost half a million dollars is budgeted for sales tax revenue.
Lance Reed, owner of the Chick-fil-A location at 2307 Jackson Avenue in Oxford, explained the company has rolled out over two dozen food trucks nationwide.
“Our business was selected for one in October,” Reed said about the food truck. Typically the truck is scheduled for weekly visits to cities in the area that do not have a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
“We can provide Chick-fil-A in a smaller community that may never get a brick and mortar location,” Reed added.
Reed also clarified that the sales tax collected at each location is recorded in the municipality where they are set up. He said his business posts a $500 sales tax bond for transient vendors for each location where the food truck is parked as required by the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
“It is a one-time $500 cash bond per address,” he said. “We are not trying to cut corners, we are trying to do everything by the book.”
“We are just trying to evaluate if it’s a good business decision. The one time we were there, sales were good; however, we have seen sales decrease after going to the same community multiple times. We’d love for the city to offer us a 90 day trial or reduce the fee so that we can better test the market. We’d love to be in Water Valley weekly and would love to come up with a win-win solution for both CFA and Water Valley,” Reed said.
Reed also said he has offered to meet with city officials to discuss the issue.