By Sean Ditch
The Alderpersons of the City of Lebanon held a committee meeting on Tuesday, September 5 2023 at City Hall. The meeting was a full house, standing room only crowd, widely attended by business owners in Lebanon, with many concerned citizens in the mix. Mayor Cheri Wright was also in attendance to hear citizens as she does every committee meeting, however she attends these as a citizen herself and not in the capacity of Mayor.
Many citizens made their appearance known at the meeting in support of Kris Kroenig, a business owner of a produce stand. Kroenig had previously experienced trouble with the city in ways of operating a produce stand in the city of Lebanon, to the point of him taking his business elsewhere in Edwardsville near the end of last month. When audience participation was called, a citizen shared “The City of Lebanon is not proud of the way, the residents of Lebanon are not proud of the way the city has treated this man and his family, and there’s been a breakdown in communication starting with the city, and the city will take no responsibility for it. They owe him (Kroenig) an apology, and he should have one tonight, and if there isn’t, it’s going in the newspaper.”
Kroenig shared his frustrations on trying to open his business in Lebanon. He shared how he started the process in May with wanting to open a produce stand across from IGA on Route 4, however felt the breakdown in communication happened, though not by him he claimed. He shared he didn’t get a clear sense of guidance on how to go about starting the business. He started himself and upon attempts to comply with the city, he claims he was abused verbally, slandered, and harrassed by city officials. He was then issued an itinerant merchant permit from the city, which would require him to set up and tear down each day in order to run his business at the stand. This caused him to talk to Mr. McCleery, the owner of the parking lot where he set up his business, and they came to an agreement for Kroenig to use one of the buildings that was for sale on his parking lot.
The city of Lebanon claimed that the building was considered a temporary structure, with running water, a restroom, and inspections were needed in order for a business to run. Currently there are no ordinances allowing a building to use and allow customers to enter. The city said that they’re working on such a need, so a business could operate under the conditions. Mr. Kroenig shared how other businesses are open in Lebanon who don’t have running water or inspections to his knowledge.
“Why sit here and suffer the abuse from a town that doesn’t want us?” asked Kroenig at the hearing. “The customers wanted us, the residents of this town wanted us, but in all honesty, a percentage of this board did not want us. I say a percentage here because there were ones here who wanted us, and others who say ‘we bent over backwards trying to help you’, but at the same time they were the first ones that called us out on revoking our permit.
“If you’re not welcome, why stay?”
Kroenig brought up how welcoming and easy it was to start and open a business in Edwardsville. He said it shows just a reason why Edwardsville is growing and a city like Lebanon was dying.
Residents were supportive of Kroenig’s opinions on the matter. Others expressed similar beliefs on how difficult it was to bring a business and maintain one in Lebanon. Many wanted more clarity and better communication from the city on what was needed to start and possibly maintain a business, or the possibility of a step by step guide. Citizens shared that if elected officials and city staff didn’t make this easier for potential businesses or at the very least friendlier, not many would relocate or start a business in Lebanon. One citizen shared how the city can do so much too, and the citizens need to step up too and be better as well in conjunction with the city, and people need to stop complaining and start getting more involved.
Once audience participation ceased, other matters were discussed that will be moved to the next city council meeting:
-An Ordinance that would establish a business district and impose a 1% sales tax in the district if approved.
-A request from Looking Glass Playhouse in use of a pavilion in the mini park for their Haunted Happenings in October.
-Potential Purchase of new trash cans for Brick Street and the disposal of barrels.
-Potential Purchase of a new Ford Truck for the Water/Sewer Department.
-Potential Purchase of a Bobcat for the Streets Department.