To make sure all businesses are doing their part and paying the appropriate taxes, city officials want to create and maintain a data base for new and existing businesses.
City Council and members of Mayor Gabriel J. Campana's administration said a mechanism must be put into place soon to prevent further loss of tax dollars and permit fees.
Members of the city finance committee weighed in on the subject after being interviewed by the Sun-Gazette.
Councilman Randall J. Allison suggested the creation and access to a data base for police, fire and codes that lists companies that have registered to do business in the state.
"The city also must ask the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and the county to assist in whatever relevant information is available to develop a mechanism to identify businesses as they move here," Allison said.
"One area we can do better in is informing these companies of the taxing and permit requirements by publicizing their obligations via mass media and an information list that details all the pertinent laws and ordinances that may apply to them."
"The city is rapidly becoming a regional center for natural gas development, bringing a wide variety of jobs that pay pretty well," said Councilman Jonathan Williamson. "Whatever the amount, I am sure it is not insignificant."
Councilwoman Gerry Fausnaught agreed that a data base is needed.
"It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure we create a data base and have police, fire and codes share information to help positively impact our tax base," Fausnaught said.
"We talked about it before to make sure any new company, whether small or whatever, is known to the city and kept track of. It should be handled by codes because that is where the process begins by making sure these companies and businesses get the right kind of documents to complete."
Councilman Bill Hall, chairman of the finance committee, said there are problems that need to be fixed but he viewed the growth as a potential plus for the city if those companies are tracked and word spreads to alert the businesses of their responsibilities.
Allison added that a combined effort from codes, police, fire departments canvassing the city must take place.
Codes enforcement is getting assistance from the Bureau of Fire and city police, according to department heads in those respective departments.
Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach and city Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman said their departments are helping codes by identifying suspicious business openings.
Heinbach said some of those inspections have saved lives, particularly when his firefighters discover fire or safety hazards inside the buildings.
William E. Nichols Jr., city administrator, said the new growth associated with the Marcellus Shale has created an ongoing problem to correct deficiencies.
"It's a work in progress," Nichols said.
Codes Administrator Joseph Gerardi said going around and inspecting new businesses to see they are in compliance with permits is adding to the workload.
It has taken time from the five-member codes staff who inspect rental properties, conduct safety inspections and issue citations for property owners who don't cut their grass or keep junk on lawns.