THOMASVILLE -- They ask to test your water, then try to sell you water purification equipment door-to-door -- and council members do not like it.
The second of two heavily discussed issues at the Thomasville City Council's workshop meeting Wednesday involved how the council could stop a particular company from soliciting residents door-to-door about testing their water.
"We've got great water," said council member Camille Payne. "Our water is super."
She disagrees with the company, United Distributors Inc., headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., asking people if they can test their water's purity and returning later to try to sell them equipment she said they do not need.
"We've been in business for 25 years," said Craig Boesdorfer, secretary/treasurer of United Distributors Inc., in an interview Friday. He said his company stands well with the Better Business Bureau in northeast Florida and that his company researches an area's statutes and laws before soliciting.
"We've done that in Thomasville," he said.
He said his company is trying to sell a product, be it by door-to-door means.
"I feel like we have an outstanding product," he said. "We are in no way, shape or form implying there is anything wrong with Thomasville's water."
He said his representatives are "extremely up front" with potential customers, explaining they would like to do six tests on their water to show the difference between what it is like now and what it could be like. Qualities such as taste, appearance and softness are some of the factors the equipment addresses, he said.
In addition, Boesdorfer said his company even has a disclaimer customers are asked to sign that states they have not been told their water's quality is poor.
Boesdorfer said his company, which has offices in Valdosta, Thomasville, Macon and Savannah, receives a lot of business from Thomasville and the rest of South Georgia.
He sees Thomasville's current city ordinance allowing companies like his to get permits to solicit door-to-door as positive.
He said for a few years, Thomasville's code did not allow permits. Since then, the peddlers ordinance has changed, he said.
Boesdorfer said UDI started its most recent door-to-door sales within the past two weeks.
City Clerk Kathleen Vinson informed the council the company is able to continue going door-to-door because the city issues a permit for $200, that is valid up to 90 days at a time, with a $50 application fee.
She also told the council almost 700 people signed up for the city's non-solicitation list.
This list should block door-to-door solicitors from visiting their homes. Per the city's code, businesses with permits to solicit door-to-door must keep up-to-date copies of the city's non-solicitation list and respect residents' wishes.
To join the list, go online to the city's Web site: www.rose.net. The list is only effective within Thomasville's city limits.
In response to Payne's question of how to curb the solicitor, Vinson said the city's ordinances do not cover anything regarding the company sending a salesperson to residents' homes trying to sell equipment to them.
Mayor Rick Singletary said he disagreed with the door-to-door solicitations.
"We have an obligation to protect our citizens from deceptive sales practices," he said.
The council did not discuss which specific actions it might take.
Other issues the council mulled during Wednesday's meeting included:
- the need to work on housing in the Wright, Lester and South street areas
- City Engineer John F. Wood's report about the status of the airport, Landfill and downtown, city council appointments to a joint county-city Comprehensive Plan Committee
- the need for two appointments on the City Board
- setting the date for the council's one-day retreat
To reach Reporter Blenda Link, call 226-2400, ext. 227.
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