Drivers who find themselves trying to avoid pedestrians collecting money in the middle of the road should soon find the nuisance a thing of the past.
Macon City Council’s Public Safety Committee approved Monday an ordinance sponsored by Councilman Rick Hutto that will expressly prohibit people from standing in the street to solicit contributions from a vehicle’s occupant.
The measure heads to a council vote July 20, but the proposed ordinance is largely a formality because it’s already against the law to collect money in the streets.
The new ordinance attempts to clear up what has been a confusing issue for police officers and the city.
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Hutto said he became aware of the problem when he was driving a few weeks ago and had someone knock on his window while he was stopped at an intersection. He asked the solicitor about whether her charity was a registered 501(c)3 and whether the group had a permit to solicit donations.
Hutto said he later discovered an Atlanta-based charity was busing a group of women to Macon to solicit contributions.
After discussing the matter with city attorneys, Hutto said what the city has been issuing to people attempting to solicit funds in Macon isn’t a permit, but instead a letter that registers the charity with the city on a temporary basis.
However, regardless of any permit, state law expressly prohibits anyone from going out into a roadway to collect money from a person in a vehicle.
Hutto said he spoke with Macon police officers, who told him the issue has been unclear because it was assumed the people had valid permits.
“It was a double mistake,” Hutto said. “What they had was not a permit, and the police didn’t know (the solicitations are illegal).”
Councilman Charles Jones said the ordinance needs to be specific, because otherwise it could be misinterpreted to include vendors who sell things on the side of the road.
Though the state law already exists, the committee approved the ordinance to clarify the issue.
“(Solicitors) were in the roadway,” Councilman Lonnie Miley said. “That in itself is a major public safety issue.”
In other business Monday, the committee approved a resolution to ask Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration to look into the possibility of using the defunct city jail for temporary detention and booking. The city currently pays Bibb County $65 for each inmate taken to the Bibb County jail.
The committee also approved a resolution that authorizes Bragg Jam to hold its annual festival July 31. The resolution also permits festival patrons to carry open containers of alcohol in designated cups.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.